Tuesday, January 31, 2012

GN Review -- Gabby & Gator / James Burks

James Burks puts forth a heartwarming story in Gabby & Gator, about two very different outsiders who come to be friends and must work together to help each other overcome their problems.  Along the way, lessons of loneliness and unconditional acceptance lend a strong moral to an otherwise cute and entertaining read.

We see an early glimpse into Gator’s life, where he is purchased by an impulsive boy whose mother makes him get rid of his new pet.  Ten years later, Gator spends the rest of his days in a sewer, feeding on small animals (including pets!) when he gets hungry.  He doesn’t like who he is or what he does, but with his day to day survival at stake, he has no choice but to live with himself.

Gabby, on the other hand, is an environmentally aware, shy girl who barely speaks.  She likes alternative energy, vegetarianism, and keeping out of direct sunlight.  This of course makes her a tempting target for the other kids, including an oafish bully, who continually taunts her.  When Gator sees him tormenting her, he intercedes, starting a friendship that will change them both by giving them what they crave: someone who accepts them for who they are.

This story is an extremely quick read--you’ll burn through the 192 pages in half an hour, tops--but its charm is undeniable, making for a memorable read for the young audience for which it’s intended.  Gabby is a character many readers will readily relate to, with her shy, bonnet-wearing exterior masking an intelligent, surprisingly well-spoken young lady.  Gator is no different, at least in the fact that he doesn’t understand or approve of some of his own natural urges.  They are in many ways very different people, but their ability to see each other as simply needing a friend sets up some amusing adventures for the unlikely duo.

Burks also keeps the pace going quickly, even as he explores the friendship between his two characters, making amusing quirks, situations, and dialog that will keep young readers interested in seeing what happens next.  There’s a sand castle contest, a daring rescue, an exploration of Gator’s fears about water and the toilet, and a memorable comeuppance as Gabby finally finds her voice at a critical moment.  It’s all done in a fun vein, and the action will endear the reader as much as the characters’ charming personalities.

Art-wise, Burks employs an appropriately simple style that is meant to grab the reader’s attention and reinforce that this is a story intended for children.  He uses vibrant colors, big poses and gestures, and expressive faces to accent the liveliness of his characters and their escapades.  It works well for the story he’s telling, and ensures a satisfied audience.

Overall, I’d say this is a fun, quick read for kids of all ages.  The story is simple for readers of traditional comic book, but there’s no arguing its simple appeal and strong theme of friendship.  Highly recommended.

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