Telling the Story in Pictures and Words
I’ll start by bragging.
Lisa Harkrader, author of the award-winning AIRBALL: MY LIFE IN BRIEFS and now THE ADVENTURES OF BEANBOY, was once one of my most promising writing students. I’d like to claim that her success is due to me, but really she already wrote very well when she took Creative Writing. I was more of a facilitator than a teacher, I think. That is, I set up the situations that she poured her cleverness and wit into. Even so, I’m very proud of her and a little envious since now she’s far ahead of me in the publishing game.
Like Brian Selznick’s WONDERSTRUCK, Lisa’s most recent novel for young readers, THE ADVENTURES OF BEANBOY, tells its story both through words and pictures, seamlessly entwined with the narrative. And yes, mystery readers, it does have a mystery. And I’m especially recommending this book for those of you with sons or grandsons in 6th through 8th or 9th grades. But you be sure to read the book, too, plus your daughters and granddaughters. The book’s a lot of fun, yet very touching in places.
The book begins with a couple of frames from a Captain H2O comic book that Tucker MacBean is reading, along with his best friend Noah Spooner, at Caveman Comics.
On the first four pages alone Lisa has included three excerpts from the Captain H2O comic book, a sketch of Tucker’s friend Noah, a sketch showing how Noah looks like the bassoon he plays in the band, and an index card from Tucker’s case file giving the particulars of Caveman, who runs the shop. All of these help make the book easy to read and lively.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Lisa talk about the comic book elements and other visuals in THE ADVENTURES OF BEANBOY. She, like Tucker, has always enjoyed illustrating. And as she pointed out, the index cards, usually skewed on the page for extra vitality, were an interesting way to present exposition.
Probably my favorite graphics in the book are the sticky notes, again placed a little crooked on the page. Tucker and his mother talk back and forth by notes stuck to the refrigerator, sometimes along with money for the pizza.
You see, Tucker’s mom is a single mother who works at a bank, goes to school at night, and hardly ever sees Tucker and his younger brother, nine-year-old Beecher MacBean, a. k. a. Beech-Man, whose power lies in his stubbornness. Beech has trouble saying certain words and some other problems due to a mishap during his birth.
Another graphic early in the book that I enjoyed was a half-sheet showing three villains including Sam Zawicki, Tucker’s nemesis. The chief mystery of the book is why Sam’s so angry all the time. (Your young daughters, granddaughters, and any woman who was a tomboy in her youth will especially identify with Sam.)
The book moves briskly along and soon Tucker decides to enter a comic book contest to win a scholarship for his mom, so she can spend more time with him and Beecher.
I’ll leave the rest of the fun of Lisa Harkrader’s latest novel for children, THE ADVENTURES OF BEANBOY, for you and the youngsters in your family to enjoy.
FYI: From Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, BEANBOY’s ISBN is 978-0-547-55078-7.
NEXT TIME: Colin Cotterill’s Coroner
Meanwhile, happy reading and writing. Best, Juliet