AAAA! is a fun collection of FoxTrot comic strips in a new and especially kid-friendly format. The comics included have all been previously published, but this book prints them slightly larger, with one strip (usually four panels) per page. It is also composed of strips that focus on the kids in the Fox family rather than on their parents.
For those unfamiliar with the Foxtrot franchise, the comics follow the humorous adventures of a quirky modern-day family of five: Andy and Roger Fox, their teenaged son Peter and daughter Paige, and ten-year-old son Jason. The comic also frequently incorporates Jason’s friend Marcus and pet iguana, Quincy. Peter is a wanna-be jock and an epic eater, Paige is a boy-crazy mallrat, and Jason is a genius and a prime example of a high I.Q. unimpeded by common sense. The kids fight with each other, and the older two bemoan their grades and homework while Jason pulls elaborate pranks with Marcus.
This collection features some continuing stories, though not very long ones, and is composed largely of stand-alone strips, so you can open it to almost any page and start reading. It’s certainly a quick read, with only a few panels per page and plenty of white space around them – very unintimidating and a good choice for reluctant readers. It’s kid-friendly in its content: a lot of school, sports, sibling spats, and pranks, with few of the more complex (read: math and science-y) strips that FoxTrot sometimes runs, few or no current-events based strips, and almost no episodes that follow mom Andy or dad Roger on their own. It spends much of its page time on strips about Jason and does not include any comics featuring Peter’s girlfriend or Paige’s humorously fraught dating life. The back of the ARC that I read says “Boys love geeky humor and practical jokes!” and I’m inclined to agree that this book is high in boy appeal.
The drawing style is rounded and bubbly, the cartoon people somewhat reminiscent of the humans who appear in Garfield comics. It’s well-developed and consistent, and there are lots of clever little extras in the background (the names of magazines characters are reading, posters on the walls, etc.). The lines are bold and clear. Since the panels are blown up large, the dotted screen tone used for gray looks almost like polka-dots instead, but this really isn’t disruptive visually – it’s pretty easy to just see things as shaded when they’re dotted that way.
There is some silly cartoon violence, though usually it is the results that are shown rather than the actions: Jason provokes Paige, then is shown walking dizzily away with his glasses askew, muttering. Nothing physically intense happens, and there is no sexually suggestive content and nothing likely to scare or disturb even very young readers. The youngest may not get some of the jokes, but will likely enjoy the book anyway. Older readers will appreciate the smart humor and fun drawings.
AAAA! A FoxTrot Assortment for Young Readers
by Bill Amend
Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Ages 8-12