Sparks is not your typical hero dog. Sure he can run fast, rescue a child from a well, and save families from a dam burst or a burning building, but in reality he is not a dog, he’s a mechanical dog suit operated by two cats! With interesting new characters in the hero genre, writer Ian Boothby and illustrator Nina Matsumoto’s new graphic novel Sparks! entertains young readers with action packed heroic deeds, plotting extraterrestrial life, and hilarious animal antics.
August and Charlie are escapees from a weird research facility. Due to the experiments she was put under, August now has a brilliant mind. She has the capability to create a mechanical dog suit for her and Charlie to ride in and take up the role as the city’s new canine hero. Their plan seems to work very well, but their partnership is soon put to the test. An innocent looking toddler named Princess, who is actually an alien in disguise, has plans to take over the Earth using mind controlled animals and her alien servants. As she gets closer to finalizing her plans, she slowly discovers Sparks’ secret identity and figures out how to bring him and the cats down.
The heroic team of this graphic novel may not be a conventional choice, but it certainly fits into the story’s world. What makes the team work so well is that August and Charlie are very different from one another; Charlie is brave, laid back, and loves the praise Sparks is receiving, but August is your common house cat who is afraid of the outside and being touched by human hands. Even though their views collide from time to time, they are able to work well together when becoming Sparks and saving the day. The rest of the cast are reminiscent of common superhero story tropes, such as the world conquering villain, the determined reporter, and the hero’s loyal butler (who is actually a computerized litter box who likes to DJ).
There is a lot of action to keep the reader entertained, along with a few surprises and revelations that bring the characters together in the end. The artwork has a cartoonish style with colorful characters and comic onomatopoeia that fits very well with the story’s action scenes. There are moments of comedy and drama, creating a story not just about a superhero but about friendships and overcoming your fears.
Sparks! is a fun graphic novel that is a perfect addition to any children’s library collection. With its simple but colorful artwork and engaging storyline, young readers will gladly take it home and read it from cover to cover. It is a great read for readers in 2nd-6th grade, especially if they enjoy other action and comedy graphic novels with heroic animal characters, such as Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man and Dan Santat’s Sidekicks.
by Ian Boothby
Art by Nina Matsumoto
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10