Jellaby: The Lost Monster and Jellaby: Monster in the City by Kean Soo, foreword by Kazu Kibuishi (Lost) and Raina Telgemeier (City)
While her classmates are book reporting on Dr. Seuss, Portia chooses more precocious fare: “Reason and Emotion: Classical and Romantic Philosophies in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia“! So maybe exploring “contrast between logic and emotion” doesn’t exactly endear her to the other 10-year-old kids. And even if the teacher recognizes that she’s “bright,” he also threatens to call her mother. Right. Not exactly the best start as the new girl.
Portia hasn’t made any friends yet. Since her single mother frequently works late, Portia finds herself alone too often … until one late night when she wanders outside and finds another lost soul – who turns out to be giant and purple with wings, who looks rather like an oversized baby dragon. She manages to keep him a secret from her mother, but his appearance at school gets him noticed by classmate Jason, the bullied short kid with quite the attitude (not to mention what seems to be an unlimited supply of carrot t-shirts). Portia and Jason have a reason to become friends … if nothing else but to somehow reunite Jellaby (as Portia later names him) with his kind. The Lost Monster must get home …
The second half of Jellaby’s journey finds him being a Monster in the City, accompanied by Portia and Jason who have managed to get him from their small town to the big metropolis of Toronto. It’s Halloween, when strange creatures are everywhere, which means Jellaby looks like he’s got on one of the best costumes on the streets.
After a few scuffles and misunderstandings – narrow train escape and torrential downpour, notwithstanding – the trio finally make it to the exhibition hall where the silent Jellaby recognizes one of the buildings. Oh, but what dangers lurk within. When harsh words and an angry shove separates Portia from Jason and Jellaby, she has to navigate an underground labyrinth filled with all her nightmarish fears in order to find them once more. Only true friendship can save them now …
In spite of important industry lauds, including an Eisner nomination (2006 for Best Digital Comic) and the 2009 Joe Schuster Award for Best Comic for Kids, Jellaby briefly went out of print in 2010. Earlier this year, Capstone debuted a deluxe two-volume reprint edition of British-born, Hong Kong-raised, Canada-domiciled Kean Soo’s signature series, complete with congratulatory introductions from graphic giants Kazu Kibuishi and Raina Telgemeier. Poignantly, resonantly woven into the adventure are contemporary difficulties and challenges that too many children face today: while the bogeyman and monsters might sound fantastical, nightmares can be too real, from missing parents to relentless bullying to too many children raising themselves in our overscheduled society. Imagination and friendship are often today’s babysitters and companions; how grateful are we for the superbly engaging, encouraging variety – oversized, cuddly, loyal purple monsters included.
Readers: Middle Grade