Oni Press is one of those companies that people underestimate. From The Sixth Gun and The Bunker to Letter 44 and of course Scott Pilgrim this company publishes some great stuff, but it’s not all adult oriented bleeding edge graphic novels. Take Sketch Monsters, this book published in 2011 shows that Oni has put out quality content for a good long time.
Sketch Monsters, written by Joshua Williamson (whose Image book Nailbiter launched May 7th) and drawn with charming style by Vinny Navarrete, is the story of eight-year-old Mandy. Mandy, to quote the book “isn’t what you would call an EMOTIONAL girl”. It seems no matter what the situation she reacts pretty much the same. She’s not rude or surly just kind of deadpan, unaffected.
When Mandy’s big sister leaves for college she gives Mandy a sketch book, which she hopes Mandy will use if she ever feels like expressing herself. The very next day as she sat on her favorite hill she began drawing in that book, she began to draw her favorite thing of all; Monsters. And then in the night, as she slept, something amazing happened. When the noises awoke Mandy she crept out of her bed and found her sketch monsters everywhere. They were wrecking her house! Drawing on the walls, the furniture, everything!
See the next four pages of the preview at Vincente Navarrete’s facebook page (click here).
Her attempts to get them back in the book fail but luckily “Happster”, a big orange intense monster from her book, explains what she must do. She must track down all the monsters and show them how she feels, then each will return to the book. So show the love monster love and boom you got him. Mandy doesn’t like this idea but she knows she’s got to catch those monsters, preferably before her parents catch her!
The rest of the journey has Mandy tracking each monster down, figuring out what emotion they’re showing and responding in kind or with an example (she shows the Love monster how much she loves her sketchbook). The story takes Mandy through the gambit, love, sadness, silliness, fear, anger, and yes even Happster the happy monster has to go back in the book. In the end it’s a story about expressing your feelings and how much better emotions are when you let yourself feel them. The book sends the message home like a good kids book should but I didn’t feel it was sappy or overdone. They also included pages of Navarrete, sketches in the back of this really pretty hardcover.
This book is a five out of five, likable relatable characters, well drawn art with just the right amount of whimsy, and a great message. Buy it for your first or second grader, then donate it to the school/class library it’s a good book.
Series: Sketch Monsters (Book 1)
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Oni Press (November 1, 2011)
Buy it at Amazon.