It has been quite awhile since I’ve read any James Kochalka. I felt compelled to review this title because I wanted to see what he had been working on. I’m happy that I did. Kochalka’s art is adorable! Artistically in this title he lives in a place smack dab between Andy Runton’s Owly and Carl Bark’s Uncle Scrooge. In other words: maximum cuteness!
This story primarily focuses on Johnny’s friend Squiggle, who when he can’t play with Johnny Boo is forced to go out on his own and make a new friend to play with. Squiggle makes the wrong friend, a mean little boy, and finds himself in an uncomfortable situation.
Kochalka uses thick lines and tones down the complexity in his art. The effect is to make the simple shapes of Johnny Boo and Squiggle stand out. Rich colors add to the story. Johnny Boo and Squiggle are a ghostly white, while the mean little boy is dressed in color. Literally and figuratively the reader can see the contrast between these sets of characters.
The story introduces some important ideas for children. How to handle yourself when a friend doesn’t want to play with you. What to do when a friend is playing with you meanly and what can happen when you need to go to the bathroom. In this story these themes are handled with humor and grace.
James Kochalka does a phenomenal job of clearly expressing the story with words and pictures. Even his more subtle humor (where he implies that the mean little boy wets himself) is clear due to the bright colors. While this is one that would be most enjoyed by younger elementary students, the cuteness and humor make it an all ages title.
Johnny Boo, book 4: Johnny Boo and the Mean Little Boy
by James Kolchalka
Top Shelf Productions, 2010