Sometimes being a child can be frustrating. Nina doesn’t do wimpy frustration though – when things happen that she doesn’t like, she gets MAD. Nina’s annoyances include patronizing grownups telling her what she likes, other kids who won’t play to her schedule, being ignored, broken promises, and even her own disappointing choices.
The art and dialogue is arranged with one full-page panel on the right, listing Nina’s particular hate, followed by three smaller strips on the left, illustrating exactly what has raised Nina’s ire. Of the thirteen situations presented, eight end in a vigorous exclamation from Nina, ranging from “Fish? YUCK! I hate fish!” while the other five finish with a quiet “oh” or wordless look from Nina, surprised and bewildered by the situation that has suddenly overwhelmed her.
Kroll’s simple dialogue takes a back seat to Hilary Knight’s art, as he ably presents a range of emotions with his trademark dot and line facial expressions. Shown by lightly sketched lines, Nina is constantly on the move, wiggling her feet, running for the beach, sticking out her tongue, or building a tower. Each spread has a different dominant color, orange, pink, blue, yellow or green. Nina occasionally changes shirts, but sticks faithfully to her black overalls, making her easily identifiable in each situation.
This particular edition was published as a TOON book in 2011, marketed as a level 2 easy reader to first and second grade. But the text and illustrations are not new. It was originally published by Pantheon in 1976 as a picture book titled That Makes Me Mad. It was republished as a picture book in 2002 by North/South-Seastar with illustrations by Christine Davenier. Both previous editions are out of print and the original picture book with Knight’s illustrations is an expensive rare book.
While TOON Books has done some great easy reader graphic novels in the past, there are some issues with this title. Nina’s apparent age is around five, and I can’t recall the last time I saw a six or seven year old wearing overalls! The pictures are cute, but seem to be directed to a much younger audience than a first or second grader. I don’t know how much the text was changed from the original picture book; the title page says “based on a text by Steven Kroll” so presumably some was cut (Picture books in the 1970s tended to have lengthy text). However, in order to fit the illustrations into the smaller size of an easy reader, the font is small, much smaller than a child used to the average easy reader will be willing to tackle.
While collectors and fans of Hilary Knight will be excited to see this title, the length, font size, and age of the characters make a much better picture book than an easy reader. There are parents and children who enjoy Kay Thompson’s Eloise books and if they recognize Hilary Knight’s art style, they may be interested enough to have their beginning reader try it out, but the average library patron is unlikely to find this title of interest.