The trend towards intermediate graphic novels, aimed at readers generally in the 5-7 age range, has grown significantly this year. With the long success of Elephant and Piggie on the lower end of the scale and the rapid rise of Dogman on the higher end, there’s clearly room for a wide variety of intermediate choices to keep young graphic novel fans happy.
This new series, by debut authors Dan & Jason (Daniel Abdo and Jason Patterson) follows the traditional pattern of oddball friends with the more contemporary trend of exuberant humor and wacky shenanigans, told through brightly colored art.
Blue is a worm, Barry a frog, and Pancakes a giant-sized rabbit. The three each live on a floor of a treehouse in a busy city and each has a special facet to their personality and friendship. Barry is the idea guy, with bulging eyes, a square green body, and a hopping personality. Pancakes is the muscle, her giant size and super-strength helping out on their crazy adventures. Blue is a reader and a collector, the glue that holds the friendship of the three together. Each book features an adventure that teaches the three friends something about their friendship.
In their first adventure, Barry and Pancakes are all for a beach vacation. Blue isn’t so sure, especially when the other two start playing keep away with their beach ball, a special collector’s item! Events escalate rapidly, involving a whale, aliens, and a giant duck monster in a volcano, but in the end Barry and Pancakes realize they should stop when their friend says no — and Blue realizes friends are more important than things. In their second adventure, Escape from Balloonia, Barry and Blue are settling down for a quiet day when Pancakes shows up with a plan for a wild adventure — and she won’t take no for an answer! Before the friends know what’s happening, they’re rocketing off to Balloonia, a planet of balloons, and facing down the most monstrous creation there (although Pancakes is pretty sure she never made something that scary!). Stuck in the monster’s digestive track, Pancakes realizes her mistake and apologizes for not understanding that friends can still be friends, even if they want to do different things — and it’s always best to ask! Fortunately it all ends with an explosive… well, they were in the digestive tract… and the three are ready to settle down for a quiet day together after all.
Each book contains fun diagrams and other guides at the end of the story. The art is arranged mostly in single, page-size panels, but occasionally is broken up to show an action sequence. The colors are candy-bright with neon pinks, glaring blues, and explosive reds. The simple text, displayed in a large font, and the accompanying large panels seem to aim this at the younger end of the intermediate graphic novel spectrum. It’s certainly cinematic, with constant, often frenetic action, and a plethora of glossy colors. Bulging eyes, plenty of “whomps,” “bangs,” and “pows,” and a flock of quirky aliens and other creations follow the three friends along their journeys through adventure towards friendship.
If you have an unlimited budget and a never-satisfied audience for intermediate graphic novels, this is a fun title to add to your library shelves. It has enough potty humor to satisfy readers who long for (but can’t quite master) Pilkey, but not so much that more strait-laced caregivers will object. The pairing of wild and illogical adventures (they step through a door onto an island, flying in a balloon rocket to a balloon planet, etc.) and seriously-presented lessons on friendship will please those who like to see the educational value of their children’s reading choices. However, if your budget is limited, start with more conventional new favorites like InvestiGators, Max Meow, or Narwhal and Jelly.
Blue, Barry & Pancakes
By Dan Abdo, Jason Patterson,
Art by Jennifer Wharton
First Second, 2021
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781250255556
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781250255563
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)