Polo: The Runaway Book
By Regis Faller
Roaring Brook Press, $16.95
80 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-1596431898
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
When Polo the dog receives a book from a friend for his birthday, he's thrilled. He falls asleep reading it, only to be awakened by a strange little creature (a happy face with stick arms and legs) coming through is bedroom window. Before Polo knows it, the yellow creature is making off with his new book, scurrying up a rope and into the night sky. And so Polo does what any book-lover would do -- he follows, and quickly, only to find himself in an unfamiliar, rapidly changing fantasy world. Through his wits and quick-thinking though, Polo navigates these new landscapes deftly, making friends and ultimately securing his book and a happy ending.
Faller's work is whimsical, full of character and verve. The unexpected obstacles faced by Polo are silly yet serious, keeping young readers engaged. For example, Polo follows the mysterious creature up the rope from his bedroom window only to have it end abruptly in the sky, dropping him into pink clouds that fortunately turn out to be cotton candy; he steps through a mirror, meets a genie in the desert, and a porcine princess in a cloud castle. It's a crazy trip through time and space for Polo, and young readers get to vicariously travel along with him. The book is quite long -- about 80 pages -- but the plot moves very quickly, and the scenes change dramatically enough that kids' interest should hold all the way through.
Parisian graphic artist and children's book illustrator Regis Faller's second Polo book is an adventuresome graphic novel that's sure to please. Readers don't have to have read the first book to enjoy this one -- Polo: The Runaway Book reads just fine as a stand-alone book.
This graphic novel is great for a broad variety of readers, including reluctant readers and even pre-readers. Its wordless format allows a great deal of flexibility in storytelling; parents can read the book to their children at whatever level they're comfortable with, and kids can take pride in reading to their parents. This fluidity allows for shared storytelling, tangents, and the opportunity to ask questions and spark conversation; the only limit to the narrative is your child's imagination -- practice silly voices, make up back stories for the characters, etc. Kids' familiarity with the sequential art, following the action from one panel to the next, helps them develop the concept of cause and effect, and learning to figure out what comes next in a narrative.
The mix of panel sizes and layouts is visually interesting -- full page panels, multiple vertical panels, multiple horizontal panels, and every combination in between. The color palette for each segment of Polo's journey is distinctive in hue, the deep blues of the outer space sequence contrasting with the bright gold of the desert and the pale white and gray of the cloud castle. Faller's expressive and simple line drawings make it easy for kids to follow along the story and "read" the story themselves.
Polo: The Runaway Book is a great choice for family reading-- it's accessible to readers of all ages and skill levels.
Cherry and Olive
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