dumbest-ideaJimmy Gownley’s reflective look at his youth and his enthrallment with the comic book world, while personal and introspective, is honest and appealing. It offers the reader a chance to get to know several of its characters and to join the journey to maturation and discovery along with Jimmy. Successfully narrating his rocky transition to high school and his onward journey to comic book creator, Gownley tells his story with humor, color, and tenderness. He does not sugar coat his ineptitude with social graces, friendships, or his burgeoning fame, but offers a relatable and likeable protagonist who responds to life’s challenges and gifts in a very human manner.

Jimmy is an Everyman with a difference; he has an artistic eye and, once he settles on a topic for his comic book (the dumbest idea ever suggested by his friend), he vigorously tackles his self-imposed tasks, achieving spectacular results and, unfortunately, the related pitfalls. While his best friend intensely dislikes Jimmy’s first effort at a comic book, he is extremely supportive of his next endeavour — possibly because it was his idea. More likely it’s because Jimmy has an intriguing viewpoint on everyday activities in school and in the neighbourhood of this small town in Pennsylvania. Jimmy’s comic appeals to his peers and to the wider population as well, bringing him recognition that quickly goes to his head. His steadfast friends keep his head from exploding, however.

High school is also a time of romances, and Jimmy’s major crush and first girlfriend is portrayed with honesty and integrity. Gownley also vividly brings to life small town America in the mid 1980s, with numerous popular culture references and attitudes. I particularly applauded the incorporation of the success story of self-published comics through the inclusion of Dave Sim’s Cerebus and the helpful attitude of the comic shop owner. There are no nasty stereotypes in the comic book store, school, or at home. Jimmy has supportive parents, relatives, and friends. His feelings of alienation are of adolescence rather than any dysfunctional environments.

This review is based on a mostly uncolored galley, but the coloring of the few available pages was bright, warm, and attractive. The panels throughout are focused on relationships and personal introspection with uncluttered backgrounds, lots of body language, and communicative facial expressions. The hand-lettered text is effective and the entire package has a warm personal feeling to it. The author’s note is personal, heart-rending, and a satisfying way to close this chapter of a young man’s memoir. Highly recommended for middle school readers and for fans of origin stories, particularly those of comic book creators.

The Dumbest Idea Ever!
by Jimmy Gownley
ISBN: 9780545453462
Graphix, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 10-12

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta


    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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