While I’m not as up on kid’s books as, say, Tangognat is, I occasionally find myself returning to books like The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler to cleanse my literary palate. The best of children’s literature captures a sense of anarchy and embraces joie de vivre even under the worst circumstances. Maybe this is why I’ve responded so well to the juvenile-friendly work of Joann Sfar; his Little Vampire Learns Kung Fu has the sort of precis that would make logline writers around Hollywood blush yet manages to entertain the dickens out of the reader, be they ten or thirty.
His latest effort for the school crowd, Sardine In Outer Space, a collaboration with fellow cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert (who wrote the stories contained in the new paperback) is a similar joy, full of outrageous ideas and managing to outfox most reader expectations handily. Our title character, is a little girl aboard the space ship Huckleberry, on the run from Supermuscleman with Captain Yellow Shoulder and Little Louie aiding her flight. Along the way, the cast encounters space slugs and space giants, a planet that’s a giant disco ball, and even a too-kindly mother that thinks she knows best for Yellow Shoulder when it comes to romance.
Sardine In Outer Space certainly qualifies as fun reading material that works well on a couple of levels, but the repetition comes forth much more for an adult reader than for most kids. Supermuscleman and his crony Doc Krok are too easily evaded or vanquished and the trouble the kids get in is, well, a little predictable. Still, for the younger reader, this book provides a whole new world of surreal adventure that will keep them giggling for a while, even if adults may want to occasionally put the book down for a breather – Sfar’s art is always worth a gander and his breathlessly enthusiastic art manages to carry the day when the story falls short.
If I were the grading sort. I’d give Sardine In Outer Space an 85 and encourage it to try just a little harder. Itï¿½s got lots of potential but tends to revolve around simplicity in a too-tight orbit.