His name is Rickety, Rickety Stitch, which totally makes sense, because he’s a singing skeleton. And if Rickety is Don Quixote, then Gelatinous Goo, a sack of, well, you know, goo, is his Sancho Panza.

When Rickety is fired from his dungeon job by the Chief Execution Officer, he and Goo embark on a journey to a new way of life and pursue some questions Rickety has about his origins. Like the recurring dream in which a song about the road to Epoli comes back to him piece by piece. Other dreams show him a troubling past of life in exile and a powerful evil force. As Rickety and Goo continue to travel, they perform at a bar that looks like it belongs on Mos Eisley and are lucky to leave with their lives intact. Then, they enter the Grimly Wood, where Rickety lets the mischievous imp, Zigglidorglymorkin, lead him to the forest ogre. The ogre (full name: Golo the Gargantuan, Ogre-Spawn of Gordak, Glutton King of Grimly Wood) takes Goo captive, and Rickety becomes responsible for planning an elaborate escape.

If your library is in need of children’s comics that relish in the absurd, then look no further. Tween and teen readers will relish in Rickety’s mannerisms and eternal optimism about the state of the universe even if they get lost in the humor and vocabulary. For example, Rickety awes at gnome L. Nerman Fuddle’s generosity: “You’re willingly bestowing upon me these finely crafted, one-of-a-kind commemorative spoons celebrating your first-place victory at the eighty seventh annual Kraken Bisque eating contest.” I also appreciated the attention to color and shading. We watch Grimly Wood transition among several shades of purple which match Rickety’s exploration of the woods and the reader’s uncertainties about whether the woods are majestic or terrifying. There are also some expertly done fog scenes at the end of the story that leave readers with a delicious sense of the uncanny.

While this title is likely to be compared to other popular middle grades adventures like Amulet and Bone, I’d say that two things prevent Rickety from joining their company. First, Rickety is longer than Amulet or Bone (which will discourage readers who are looking for the slimmest volume they can find) and reads like an omnibus of smaller interconnected episodes. Second, the conclusion of this volume felt sudden and swift, as if the destination of volume 1 to introduce a future volume 2 was more important than the journey. I’d be more inclined to compare this book to other ridiculous romps like Poptropica and Rutabaga: The Adventure Chef.

One final note: while the publisher’s recommendation on the volume was ages 12+, this book feels more fitting for a juvenile graphic novel collection than a teen graphic novel collection if your library keeps separate collections. There is no content in this volume that would be considered inappropriate for most younger audiences, and teen readers may find the premise somewhat immature.

Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo, vol. 1: The Road to Epoli
by Ben Costa
Art by James Parks
ISBN: 9780399556135
Knopf, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 12+

  • Amy Estersohn

    | She/Her Past Reviewer

    Amy Estersohn is a seventh grade English teacher at Hommocks Middle School in Larchmont, NY and the inheritor of a large classroom library. She has always been struck by the ability of graphic novels to convey a story that transcends written language alone. That story can be for developing readers, such as the time a five-year-old saw her reading Akira on the subway and snuggled next to her, insisting he “read” along, or it can be for proficient readers who want to explore a topic in more emotional depth, such as Don Brown’s depiction of a post-Katrina New Orleans in Drowned City. She holds a BA from the University of Chicago and an MA from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!