I have been a fan of Maxwell Eaton from his first quirky picture books, featuring Max and Pinky, through his hilarious comics of the Flying Beaver Brothers, and now to his most recent work of picture book format comics with nonfiction subjects, presented with his trademark humor. Survival Scout introduces a new character and a new series, combining information about survival in various disasters with quirky humor, helpful facts, and an array of delightful characters.
Scout, the main character, was expecting to go on a hiking trip with her grandmother. Instead she’s gotten stuck with her older brother, wanna-be wilderness guide and know-it-all ignoramus, who promptly loses them in the wilderness and is chased off by a bear. As the story progresses, Scout makes good decisions, ensuring her survival and eventual rescue. Periodic humorous asides are included of her brother and the bear on their endless Looney Tunes-esque chase, and Scout’s efforts are cheerfully critiqued by a local skunk and other passing animals. She builds shelter, makes a fire, figures out a food supply, and weighs the pros and cons of staying put and moving out, including figuring out her position without a compass. There’s a happy ending for everyone, even (sort of) Scout’s brother and the bear. Grandma, Scout, and the skunk end the story with the expectation of more fun hikes to come. An appendix includes illustrated guides to making knots, building an outdoor latrine, Morse code, and more.
Eaton’s chunky art has been somewhat refined from his first picture books, but the deadpan faces and hysterical asides are still a strong feature. Scout and her brother are white; Scout has shaggy brown hair and is sensibly dressed in long pants, sturdy shoes, and button-up red shirt. The ubiquitous skunk is a fluffy black blob with a narrow white stripe and a habit of casually leaning their pointed nose into instructional sections to offer advice and commentary. Although characters’ eyes are all little ovals, Eaton still fills in plenty of expression, from Scout’s determination to survive to her quiet enjoyment of the beautiful night sky. The background is very simple, just a green meadow, blue river, a few trees, and snow-capped mountains in the distance. The narrative is interspersed with short comics demonstrating various skills, like different ways to light a fire.
These will be appreciated by kids and adults alike, especially those who can enjoy Eaton’s subtle humor. Full of helpful and practical information built into the light structure of a narrative, this new series is sure to be as popular as Eaton’s previous nonfiction foray, The Truth About…, and is recommended for public and school libraries.
Survival Scout, vol. 1: Lost in the Mountains
By Maxwell Eaton III
Macmillan Roaring Brook, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)