Sunday, January 14

Polo: The Runaway Book

by Regis Faller
Roaring Book Press 2007

"When a smiley face steals his book, Polo goes on another fabulous adventure to retrieve it."

That was the note I made to myself. You can tell I used to summarize movies. Badly, at times.

In what amounts to a graphic novel for the picture book set (and for those of us who enjoy a good, lengthy visual story) this follow-up to Polo's last adventure deals in the same sort of flights of fantasy where the unexplainable is quite natural. Along the way Polo confronts, visits or enlists the help of a variety of creatures and beings who are equally at home in their little worlds -- the genie in the desert, the princess pig in the land of clouds, the chicken flying a balloon craft over the ocean, the cloud people whose boxing ring becomes a dance stage, the penguin whose knitting unravels and becomes the sort of living line that was the stock and trade of Harold and his purple crayon, all jumping from one fantastic setting to then next.

Faller's book doesn't fall into the traditional category of "European" (the book was originally published in France) in that the illustration is immediately approachable. What does feel non-American about it is the scope of the story, it's length, and episodic nature of Polo's adventures. It's a question of trusting the attention span of young readers, I fear, that and the attitude European audiences have toward graphic novels. I have already heard adults refer to this book as a comic book because of its multi-panel format -- lumping it generically and with total ignorance into the same camp as Superman, The Archies and Peanuts gang -- writing it off as something lesser than a traditional picture book. Which is a shame.

If a pre-reading child can sit for 30 minutes and watch, and follow, a television program they deserve enough credit to be given a book with 80 pages that manages to transport them to half dozen worlds of fantasy and adventure. And they only need to know two words to follow along, a phrase only uttered twice in the entire story.

"My book!"
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