Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Food Fight: A graphic guide adventure by Liam O’Donnell, illustrated by Mike Deas

This graphic novel didn’t really work for me. Just so you know.

Devin is stuck at a stupid summer camp for babies for two whole weeks. His mom has just gotten a special research grant; his sister is excited to be a counselor, so it’s just Devin who’s suffering. Reluctantly, he helps out with gardening and tries to get away as often as possible, until suddenly his own worries and resentment are forgotten; somebody is sabotaging his mom’s research project and he has to figure out who it is – or she could lose her grant and her job!

The art is attractive and cleanly drawn with a clear progression between the panels. There are some good moments of adventure and Devin is a realistic enough character to interest kids. However, I have two complaints about this book. First, the story will be popping along, and suddenly, wham, we stop for a page of information. Now some of the information is ok and kind of fits into the story, like the page and a half on how to plant beans in a garden. But…um...the whole page on how to properly wash your hands? Seriously? Then we’re suddenly reading food labels and discussing healthy eating. For two pages. Now, you can skip these sections; they don’t add anything to the story and that’s probably what most kids will do. But, they break the story up badly and they are extremely…juvenile. Exactly what age is this book intended for? It’s my understanding that Orca specializes in publishing for reluctant readers. This particular graphic novel appears to be recommended for ages 8 – 12. However, the type is extremely small, a perennial complaint of mine; kids will not read graphic novels with small type! and while the overall mystery is older, the sudden drops into lecturing on washing hands and proper nutrition are not something a tween is going to want to hear.

Finally, the story is just…too convoluted for the projected audience and all the other stuff that’s been dumped into it. Devin’s mom is involved in plant research and an Evil Corporation thinks that since they are funding the research they should get to test their Environmentally Damaging Pesticides. Various groups have been protesting this, as well as genetically altered foods. Devin’s mom’s lab gets broken into and her experiments damaged and she’s framed for the plot. Turns out, the Evil Corporation is going to force their own special fertilizer on farmers, a fertilizer which will make farmers dependent on the company for more fertilizer. But, they’re not the ones damaging the labs or experiments; that’s just a jealous colleague. The Evil Corporation is discredited on the internet and has to withdraw their fertilizer and Devin’s mom keeps her job and finishes her experiments (no information on where the money came from after their sponsor presumably withdrew).

Verdict: It was a good idea and there are some “educational” comics that are fun as well, but this is just too complicated and the info dumps are too jarring. I think some of the other titles in this series might be better, there are several sports ones and I think kids would like fact sections in those, so while I don’t recommend this specific book, the format might work well for some of the other titles.

ISBN: 9781554690671; Published April 2010 by Orca; Borrowed from the library

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