Billy and Buddy (Boule and Bill in the original French) is a typical boy-and-his-dog comic strip collection. Each page of the oversized paperback features a single story based around a simple gag. Some of the stories are Family Circus cute, as when Billy worries about the birds outside, so he takes out the butter dish from the refrigerator for them. When he hears his mom looking for the butter, he brings it back – plus a flock of small birds.
Other strips feature Buddy and his friend Caroline the turtle, various pranks by Billy, and his parents and friends. Some of the gags and characters seem well-worn, verging on the stereotypical; Billy’s mom is a “typical” housewife, complete with apron. His dad is a bumbling businessman, who yells about bills and clearly considers himself the master of the house. There are jokes about women trying on hats, worrying about their weight, and being unable to drive. Billy’s dad imagines himself a woodsman — a stock gag that can be seen in Little Lulu and similar comics — keeps his suburban lawn perfectly, and tries to run his household, but never manages to earn any respect. According to the publishing information, this title was originally published in France in 2008, but, not surprisingly, is a collection of comic strips that began publication in 1959.
Fans of French comic strips, such as the classic Asterix, will find the art style familiar. Lots of quick lines, sketchy edges, and recognizable caricatures of each figure make it easy to follow the action and storylines. The pages have clearly defined panels and speech balloons. Buddy and Billy are the most distinctive, with expressive eyes and faces as they cheerfully move through the adult world, unaware of the havoc they’re causing. Buddy’s ears as well as his facial features express emotions, even when he’s not “talking,” showing excitement, disappointment, and an often disgruntled look at the world that just doesn’t recognize how amazing and smart he is.
This was a quick and amusing read. Elementary school kids who like comic strips would enjoy this series. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about the art or storylines, but kids who have worked through all the titles in the 741s will welcome new comic strip characters. However, librarians may wish to purchase more up-to-date comic strip collections and the oversized paperbacks could be a shelving issue. This is not an essential purchase for a small collection, but if you are looking for additional comic strips or have fans of French cartoons, particularly Franquin, Goscinny or Sempe, this could be a fun additional series.