Word Girl: Coalition of Malice; Word Up; The Incredible Shrinking Allowance

Word Girl: The Incredible Shrinking AllowanceBased on the TV show from PBS Kids, Word Girl defends her city from super villains and small vocabularies. From Professor Two Brains to The Butcher, super-villains just don’t know when to quit! However, in each of these adventures, Word Girl is there to save the day and define some new words.

Each book consists of two separate tales of derring-do featuring Word Girl, her alter ego, Becky, and Becky’s pet monkey Bob who doubles as her sidekick, Captain Huggy Face. The tales are compact episodes in which the situation is set up, the villain hatches an evil plot, and Word Girl finds a way to come out victorious. Though Word Girl’s massive vocabulary and ability to define words are touted as her superpower, she usually manages to defeat her foes with the more standard powers of flying and super strength. Don’t worry, the violence is at a minimum, with Word Girl throwing tomatoes to temporarily blind a foe or tricking her enemies in some way, rather than a “Smash! Ka-pow!” fight scene. Clever thinking overcomes the bumbling bad guys without anyone needing to resort to a punch in the face.

While only one of the episodes has a lake of melted fondue, all of the episodes contain a great deal of cheesiness. However, the over-the-top characters are embraced by the creators, showing a self-awareness of the cheese factor. Since the target age groups enjoy clear cut good and bad guys, Word Girl just takes everything up a notch. The vocabulary lessons don’t always fit in with the action, but the super villains aren’t hesitant to point that out. Not all of the vocabulary words are specifically defined, which helped me find a giggle with Lady Redundant Woman. While the action and characterizations may pander to the young crowd, the dialogue maintains a high reading standard. This may be a turn off to some reluctant readers who could find some of the vocabulary tricky, but with most of the difficult words defined in the text, this could be a great opportunity for them.

The art follows the PBS cartoon’s style with muted, simple backgrounds and clear lines defining the characters. People and the objects they’re interacting with are drawn in the most detail, sometimes to great effect. The expressions on characters’ faces, specifically on Word Girl’s, are my favorite, illustrating perfectly the exasperation of this highly intelligent young lady who is surrounded by idiots.

Once I decided to accept the cheesiness, Word Girl reminded me of a less violent PowerPuff Girls kind of comic, aimed at a younger audience, but with vocabulary lessons. The best part for teachers and librarians will be the TV show and the large collection of online resources available. Kids can play the games on the site, and clicking on the “Teachers” link will take you to educational tie-ins and lesson plans using Word Girl’s emphasis on the power of language.

Word Girl series
by Chris Karwowski, Anita Serwacki
Art by Steve Young, Ryan Young
Coalition of Malice, ISBN: 9781608866786
Word Up, ISBN: 9781608866809
The Incredible Shrinking Allowance, ISBN:9781608866793
Kaboom!, 2011-2012

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