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Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics Paperback – March 31, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Created by the Center for Cartoon Studies' director and two of his former students, this how-to-make-comics book for young readers takes a couple of unusual tacks. For one thing, it skips the usual rudiments of how to draw in favor of explaining the formal characteristics of comics: panels, balloons, lettering and so on. For another, it doubles as a story—about a knight on a quest for a bubblegum–chewing dragon, and the magic elf who teaches the knight all about the joy of cartooning. It's a cute premise, and the art's simple, bold brushstrokes and flat colors are zippy and fun. Sturm and company even sneak in a few comics in-jokes (when several characters fall into water, the elf exclaims I guess this would be called a SPLASH panel!). Unfortunately, the plot and the tutorial material repeatedly stumble over each other: the goofy twists in the story occasionally have a bit of instruction shoehorned in, but more often don't serve any educational purpose—or simply seem like the result of stream-of-consciousness jam cartooning. And kids looking for cartooning guidance may be frustrated to find that the book takes its readers' ability to draw expressively for granted. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Not quite a how-to book, as the cover might suggest, this is rather a stupendous new high for children’s graphic novels, spearheaded by comics maestro Sturm (Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, 2007). Ostensibly, this is the adventure of an eager knight, a sweet-toothed horse, and a magic elf hunting down a gum-chewing dragon, and those reading for the adventure itself will not be disappointed, filled as it is with humor, action, and a great girl-empowering twist. But along the way, lessons in the language of sequential art are woven seamlessly into the narrative, explaining the basics of how elements such as panels and word balloons work, while concluding bonus features offer specifics on terminology (like gutters and stems) and common symbols (like speed lines). Newcomers Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost, using varying page compositions to keep the sizable volume visually captivating, have constructed a tale that works just as well as a read-aloud for the very young as it does a lesson for everyone from fans of the form to the wholly uninitiated. As an examination of the medium, it’s a supremely worthy spiritual legacy to Scott McCloud’s seminal Understanding Comics (1993). As a straight-up graphic adventure, it may be the best of the year. Preschool-Grade 5. --Jesse Karp

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Series: Adventures in Cartooning
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: First Second (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596433698
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596433694
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.3 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K. J. DellAntonia on April 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
It sounds like a how-to--and in its own way, it is--but it's also a really funny, laugh-out-loud story that, on top of being just plain a good read, teaches the basic tropes of graphic novels/cartoons in the cleverest possible way. It would inspire any kid to pick up a pencil (in fact, it worked for me!) It's going to be my go-to birthday gift for sometime to come, along with a pad, pencils and erasers. I just ordered a spare copy and sent one to a friend.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By on November 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
When a princess throws down her pencil and exclaims that she doesn't draw well enough to make comics, the Magic Cartooning Elf comes to her rescue, offering to show her how it's done. He begins by introducing the story of a brave knight who sets out to rescue a beautiful princess from a dragon. A bubblegum-chewing dragon that flies, breathes fire, and drools in its sleep.

But before the brave knight can save the princess from the dragon, he must first establish himself in space, and to do this, he needs to be in a panel. And in the panel, he must move and communicate with the reader through dialog and thought balloons and sound effects, and the layout of each panel must flow in the direction the reader reads. Basic art lessons like these are layered effortlessly into the story and the reader quickly forgets that this is a how-to book. The simple Ed Emberley-type shapes used to create the knight, dragon, elf, and backgrounds are all unintimidating and easily imitated by novice artists.

As the story progresses, the concepts are less frequently explained using dialog. Instead, the techniques are illustrated, showing rather than telling how to create depth and motion via shadow or speed lines. The knight is wearing a helmet, so he has no facial expressions. Therefore, the artist uses body language and expressive symbols to convey emotion, including tilting the head to show laughter or using wavy lines where the knight's legs once were to indicate fear.

Plenty of emphasis is placed on imagination and storytelling. The story is told and the instruction given with plenty of humor that will appeal to kids.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on August 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read the book and when I finished it I was so happy. I didnt want it to end. Its very funny and entertaining. I think all kids will enjoy it. It teaches you alot about cartooning and the characters are so funny that I laughed out loud. I think everyone in the world should buy it. I give it 5 stars. If 1000 more came out I would buy all of them. Buy it today!!!
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Format: Paperback
If you've ever wanted to draw comics, but don't think you have any talent, this book might make you think again. Everyone has been known to doodle on paper now and then, especially during math class. There are many simple shapes that can be utilized to make a more complicated cartoon than you ever thought possible. Take for example, a tower. It consists of a rectangle with a triangle on top. Slap on a simple window toward the top and you have a tower. That is very difficult. Other little items to consider (easy does it here!) are fish, trees, candy, clouds, rocks, a shield a sword, bats, mountains, water and an onion. Doesn't that just sound like a recipe for success? Just a step at a time and you'll be a novice graphic artist in no time.

You'll follow along with "a BRAVE and EAGER knight" and a "MAGICAL ELF!" The elf made a pact with the knight. In exchange for a dragon, he asked the knight to let him tell him "about comics and cartooning." The first things he taught him about were panels, or the "little picture boxes" that comics are made up of. Those little boxes keep down the clutter and enable the reader to "see how things happen over time." You'll learn about the purpose of panels, how they indicate time or scenery changes and how they can change size. You'll learn that "words are as important as pictures," what thought balloons are, the purpose of long panels and more!

This book does not specifically instruct the budding graphic novelist in a step by step manner, but rather incorporates the instruction in the story line. The magical elf and the knight may not inspire the upper age range of its intended audience, age 12, but would grab the eight or nine-year-old immediately.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
Too often a kid will walk into a library, ask for a book on drawing, and be taken to the requisite "How to Draw a [Blank:]" section on the shelves. These books are the usual standard fare. They all begin by saying you should draw a circle over another circle, etc. etc. Sometimes you'll get something a little more high end like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and once in a while an old book on drawing comics will be stuck in between the books on the shelves, dilapidated and well worth replacing with something new and fresh. So it is that I am mighty pleased to announce the following: something new and fresh. When three cartooning experts got together to teach kids about cartoons, the result became Adventures in Cartooning. Fun, funny, and strangely informative, you can just consider this as a kind of Understanding Comics" for the under twelve set.

When a princess is determined to be missing from her tower, there's only one place she could have gone. Clearly an evil dragon has kidnapped her. So it is that a brave knight and the brave knight's not particularly brave horse Edward set forth to find the dragon and rescue the lady fair. Aiding them is a Magic Cartooning Elf who strikes up a deal with the knight. If the elf is allowed to tell the knight about making comics then he will also lead the rescue party to the dragon. The result is that the elf teaches the knight and the readers about elements like panels, the size of text, backgrounds, and the fact that a reader will only believe what a character tells them to believe.
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