Charise Mericle Harper, creator of the Fashion Kitty graphic novels and several unique picture books, brings her humor and art to a new graphic novel series for beginning readers. While her minimalist style and the classic odd couple plot in an easy reader make comparisons to Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series inevitable, Harper has created a series completely her own.
This is Bean Dog. This is Nugget. This is their ball. And with those three things, Harper has a story. Bean Dog is thrilled with his new ball, far too excited to share with Nugget. Then tragedy occurs; a giant green monster takes his ball, a spiky green…oh, it’s a bush. Will Bean Dog get his ball back? Will he share with Nugget?
In their second adventure, the two friends bond over invisible doughnuts, but the introduction of actual cookies into the equation might be a little more than friendship can stand.
Harper uses stark white backgrounds filled in with gray and a few faint splashes of pink to tell her stories. This sounds rather dreary, but spiced up with the pink and reds of Bean Dog and Nugget and their accessories, it perfectly fits the sardonic tone of the stories. Their faces are drawn in with thick, rough lines showing an array of emotions easily but with a dry touch of humor.The books have a small format and the panels are laid out with lots of white space in between and clearly defined lines to help kids read from panel to panel.
Although at first glance these may seem like a knock-off of Mo Willems’s books, Bean Dog and Nugget are completely different characters than Elephant and Piggie or any other classic easy reader odd couple, for that matter. They’re much more like real kids with a sardonic edge. They don’t want to share, they play tricks on each other, and they get bored easily. The gentle sweetness underlying most easy reader friendships is missing in these two kooky characters. Kids will easily pick up on the dry humor and enjoy seeing some book characters who aren’t quite so perfect and nice as the usual run of characters.
Fans of sentient food, dry humor, and wacky nonsense will go for these simple but clever beginning readers. Hand them to emergent and beginning readers who want something on their reading level that looks like a chapter book, to fans of Elephant and Piggie, and of course to Charise Mericle Harper’s fans. They’d also make a great read-alike for Laurie Keller’s ever-popular Arnie the Doughnut, recently debuting in his own chapter book series. The edgy characters and sly humor will appeal to older kids as well, especially those looking for a quick and funny read.