We’ve all heard that bottling up our emotions isn’t a good idea, right? Apparently eight-year-old Mandy didn’t get the memo. No matter what happens to her, she never seems to give much of a reaction. Even when her older sister leaves for college, Mandy seems unmoved. Mandy’s sister passes on a sketchbook as a going-away present and urges Mandy to use it as a way to express herself. Mandy later settles down under a tree with her new sketchbook to do what she does best: Draw monsters! Nothing seems out of the ordinary until later that night when Mandy is awoken by a loud “BUMP!” only to discover that her sketches had come to life. Now she needs to catch her creations before they wreak havoc and—more importantly—her parents find out and become upset!
Sketch Monsters: Escape of the Scribbles, the first volume in a series by writer Joshua Williamson and artist “Vinny” Navarette, focuses on the concept of learning to handle and express one’s feelings. The hook with Sketch Monsters is that each monster is a manifestation of one of Mandy’s suppressed emotions. In order to capture the escaped sketches, she has to outwardly display the same feelings characterized by the monsters. Thus, in order to catch the Crying Monster, Mandy has to allow herself to shed some tears. Mandy learns that it feels good to express her emotions, and I can imagine that many young readers will sympathize and follow suit. In that sense, Sketch Monsters is almost a therapeutic read.
While Williamson’s storyline and dialogue are inviting and keep things moving at a crisp pace, the real star of the show is Navarette’s vibrant artwork, particularly the monster designs, which each work well as clever visual metaphors for the emotions they represent. However, I do have to question if Sketch Monsters necessarily needs to be expanded into a series. The book in and of itself seems pretty clear and complete in its message of encouraging children to embrace and express their emotions. I really don’t know what else needs to be explored along those lines. Perhaps Williamson and Navarette will do something entirely different the next time around. But whatever happens with the series, provided the quality is up to what is presented in this first installment, readers will certainly be happy to see Mandy and the monsters return in future volumes.