Like chocolate and peanut butter are mixed to create a sweeter dessert treat, the Tricky Journeys series of graphic novels combines the classic trickster tales of various mythologies with the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books to create something truly unique and wonderful. Numbering six volumes at the time of this writing, each of these books centers upon a different mythological trickster animal – Coyote, Rabbit, Fox, Raven, Monkey, and my personal favorite, Anansi The Spider.
Each of the books reads like a traditional multiple-ending novel. The reader starts at the beginning of the book and reads along until they reach a point where they can make a choice. For instance, Monkey – who is a Prince –has grown bored with his life of luxury and decides to go off on an adventure. But where should he go, he wonders? The reader is given two options; should Monkey go into the mountains or should he go out to sea? The reader then skips ahead or goes back to the indicated page and continues reading along until they get another choice. Eventually, the reader will reach an ending for the story. Not all the endings are happy, however, as Monkey has the chance of becoming a pirate captain, getting arrested, winding up trapped under a mountain forever, or even getting turned into an ice cream sundae as a punishment for his rudeness!
Each volume has at least six potential “journeys” for the reader to take with the trickster hero. Interestingly, the Fox and Raven in these stories are women, so this series is no boy’s club, which is a nice touch given the male-dominated bent of most trickster stories. But what truly sets this series apart from other collections of trickster tales is the illustrations.
While this is not the first time the Choose Your Own Adventure format has been used in a graphic novel, it is the first time I have seen the concept executed so well. While the novels aren’t made entirely of comic pages, there is an even mix of comic pages and pages with text and illustrations, with only the “Choice” pages being made entirely of text. Each volume has a different illustrator, but all of them use a cartoony style that is sure to appeal to young readers.
Author Chris Schweizer deserves high praise for what he has accomplished with these scripts. Each book represents a sort of “best of” album for the hero in question, with most of the most famous stories for each character being retold depending on the path taken. The final page of each volume also discusses the original tales, the morals they teach, the lands that they came from and the people who told them. While this is educational and a nice closer for those children who want to read more about a given mythos, parents and educators should be prepared to discuss the realities of slavery and race issues as several of these conclusions do briefly discuss how various stories made their way to America through the oral legends of slaves without explaining precisely what that entailed.
This series is a must have for any graphic novel collection. Each volume is a wonderful introduction to the wonders of mythology for young readers. But more importantly, the stories are fun, well-illustrated and teach valuable moral lessons in a format that can slowly introduce those readers to more difficult books.
Tricky Journeys Series 1-6
All volumes written by Chris Schweizer
Volume 1: Tricky Coyote Tales
Artist: Chad Thomas
Volume 2: Tricky Rabbit Tales
Artist: Zack Giallongo
Volume 3: Tricky Fox Tales
Artist: Shelli Paroline
Volume 4: Tricky Raven Tales
Artist: David Witt
Volume 5: Tricky Spider Tales
Artist: Courtney Huddleston
Volume 6: Tricky Monkey Tales
Artist: Chad Thomas
Lerner Publishing Group, 2011