The comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, chronicles the daily lives of a variety of anthropomorphic animal characters and humans. Created by Stephan T. Pastis, the comic contains commentary on society, moments of dark humor, fourth wall breaks, and plays on words. Now with paperback collections available to all, the comic is able to reach younger audiences. The latest book, Suit Your Selfie, contains comics that middle school readers may enjoy, but there are a few moments that could miss the mark, depending upon the reader.
The collection of comics is based on Pastis’s characters in various situations, from job interviews to socializing to playing sports to providing their own social commentary. Each strip usually has three of the main characters (Pig, Goat, and Rat) interacting with one another, or a group of Crocodiles attempting to eat Zebra but always failing. The characters have different personalities which create humorous moments. Rat is so self-centered that he had created an automatic dome to keep from socializing with other people while dimwitted Pig had the impression that you bring a toaster and bread to a Toastmasters meeting. Meanwhile, the Crocodiles, who speak their own language, deal with the stresses of family life, especially when Larry follows his son Junior to boarding school with his mattress in tow. Readers will also discover creator Stephan T. Pastis in a number of strips, poking fun at himself and his creative process. In one strip, Pig and Rat comment that Stephen is having a midlife crisis, but instead of purchasing a car, he is wearing childrens pajamas and acting like a child around an embarrassed Goat.
Even though these strips are geared towards a middle school audience, the humor may be lost on some readers. Along with the commentary on midlife crises, there is some awkward wordplay that may be hard to understand if someone does not get the joke. Comments on life and philosophy punctuated with old references may be lost to some readers (a joke on free will and Free Willy may not be funny for those who have never seen the movie). Another moment that may be difficult to comprehend is the lemmings strips, in which a group of lemmings stand on top of one another and prepare to fall to their death. It is indeed a dash of gallows humor, but with lemmings being a not so well known animal, young readers may not get the old joke of lemmings following each other over a cliff.
Humor issues aside, the comic strips cover a page or two in the book with short interactions between characters. The artwork is colorful and bright, appealing to fans of newspaper comic strips. The characters are expressive when they are afraid, angry, or surprised, but usually they show very little emotion otherwise, especially when they are having a conversation that leads up to the punchline.
Suit Your Selfie has a few funny moments, but its target audience may have trouble with the humor. However, if a children’s librarian knows patrons who enjoy humorous comic strips and are open to suggestions, they may want to mention any of the Pearls Before Swine collections. Other then that, this should be considered an additional purchase for a children’s collection, for both public and school.
Suit Your Selfie
by Stephan R. Pastis
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 7-12