Thursday, January 21, 2016

Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson

I was just thinking gloomily about the lack of good juvenile graphic novels in 2015 and then finally got around to reading this one.

It's different. Violet lives in a world where whales eat planets, but their poop powers everything. Her parents are struggling to deal with financial issues and the fallout from her father's past mistakes, and then her mom gets a chance at a "normal" life. When tragedy strikes, will Violet stick with her mom or her dad? Will she reunite her family and make new friends? Or will she and her friends get smothered by whale diarrhea.

So, first of all, this book is kinda gross. Whale poop, trash, etc. It's also weird. There's a Jewish chicken who journals his dreams, has seizures and visions, and interprets them with Biblical passages. There's a wild flock of aliens who are naturally very alien-looking. There's also mad (or at least irresponsible) scientists, all-powerful corporations, a ridiculous fashion industry, and lots of last-minute escapes from disaster.

I think the temptation is going to be to call it a read-alike for Zita the Spacegirl, but it's really not the same at all. Yes, Violet is spunky, has ideas, strikes out on her own, and makes new friends. But while Zita's whole story arc is working towards her dealing with her isolation and coming to know herself and build a new life, Violet is trying to put back together the life she used to have. She's at home in the galaxy, even if her "home" is a cruddy spaceship in a galactic trailer park. There are plenty of tense moments and excitement, but the quirky/funny elements outweigh the adventure. There's not a lot of resolution for the issues, no great victory over the unfeeling corporations and scientists. In the end, Violet settles down in her new school with  new friends and her family back together. Life is ok and better than before but there's no perfect ending.

Verdict: I think this will appeal most to graphic novel fans in that specific upper middle grade age range, say 10-12. Hand it to readers who don't mind gross, may or may not pick up all the allusions and commentary, but will certainly enjoy a funny, exciting, and ultimately uplifting story.

ISBN: 9780545565417; Published 2015 by Scholastic Graphix; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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