Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
Claudette is a warrior, just like her dad (and perhaps her mom as well.) She doesn’t want to be anything else in the world. And after hearing the story of how Marquis Pierre the XXXII chased the giant out of town, but let it go, Claudette wants to find it…and kill it. But no one is allowed outside of the gate surrounding their town. How can she be a warrior if she can’t leave the town? With the help of her best friend Marie (an aspiring princess) and her brother Gaston (an aspiring baker) they escape the town and go hunting for the giant. Along the way the discover hidden secrets about their town and why they can’t leave. They also discover a bit more about themselves and what bravery truly means. Will Claudette, Marie, and Gaston be able to find the giant? Or where their parents stop the first? Or will disaster befall everyone? Read on to find out.
I love First Second titles and this one is no exception. This is one of those books that has something to appeal to everyone, from a well written adventure story to great artwork. Story wise I really like the character development that occurs during this book’s journey, especially with the three young children. It’s nice to see a female character that doesn’t want to be princess when she grows up, but a warrior. And that the male character, even though he wants to make swords, likes to bake as well (and is quite good at it.) Even Marie, who wants to be a princess when she grows up, shows from the very start she has a good head on her shoulders and by the end is considering being a diplomat. In other words, the book defies some of the typical stereotypes that you see. Its a joy to watch these three young children interact and react with the world and discover who they are during the adventure. I can see this type of adventure/interaction being something that young readers in particular can relate to. It seems like the creators are hoping to make this a continuing series and I’d definitely be interested in learning more about this town and the secrets it holds.
One thing that does bother me a bit about the writing in this book is that some times the words chosen don’t fit the age range of the book. I see the book as being for the elementary school range, but they use words like odoriferous or the discussion on politics at the beginning that just don’t fit that. While it would let the child come and ask their parents questions about what it means it just seems to be a bit of a deterrent to me for a young reader to really enjoy the book.
I really like the artwork in this book, especially in the opening sequence. It’s a bit different than the rest of the book as it uses more muted colors and shadows, but it’s really well done. The rest of the book is done in brighter colors, still very well drawn, and perfect for a young reader. In fact the style reminds me a lot of Jeff Smith’s Bone, especially in the way the background and older characters are depicted. They have a lot more detail to them, more age lines on the faces of the older characters, while the children in the story are almost less defined. It’s as if the artist is giving readers a chance to put themselves in the main characters places, making it easier for the reader to identify with them. My absolute favorite character designs are Zubair and Claudette’s father, Augustine. I love the way they move while on their journey to rescue the children and the grizzled looks on their faces. One of my favorite scenes in the book though is where the children are interacting with the Mad River King and his underwater palace and just the depth and imagery created by the fantastic coloring job in these scenes.
I’d highly recommend this book to any elementary school/middle school reader, especially young girls that are looking for a story where the girl isn’t a princess. I really hope there are sequels, just to answer some of the questions the author raises, but doesn’t answer. But, even if there are no sequels this is a good coming of age tell with strong characters and I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.
A review copy of this book was provided by Gina at FirstSecond.