April 6, 2010

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Yotsuba&! Volume 3

Written by Kiyohiko Azuma
Illustrated by Kiyohiko Azuma
Yen Press

Our green-eyed imp plays with fire but doesn't get burned as she learns the wonders of fireworks. Plus, watch as Yotsuba gains flower power, rides a bus, and learns that there some things in the world bigger than Jumbo as she visits the zoo.

The ordinary becomes the extraordinary when Yotsuba's involved, so if you think you know how to look at everyday life, think again!

I cannot think of a better way to spend the end of an evening on the porch than reading the absolutely wonderful Yotsuba&! series, other than maybe with a child who shares her sense of the new. Part of why I like this series so much is that I remember being like our pint-sized protagonist, and probably still act like that now and again.

As with the prior volumes, Yotsuba's interactions with her world and those that inhabit it drive the series. They range from the comic (Yotsuba jumps in a refrigerated floral case and pretends to be a bouquet) to the silly (Yotsuba plays on a character's guilt to keep trying to win carnival prizes) to the touching (just about any moment where Yotsuba and her father interact with each other). She acts without thinking, not out of malice but because her mind ranges far and wide.

Learning she can hop on a bus means doing it, for instance, no matter if it might lead to danger. Similarly, she sometimes calls out people for what they have done in a way that causes them to rethink their actions but that no one who "knows better" would dare to do.

We see her here as a fast learner, even if the application is a bit off, such as making a car prettier by putting a firecracker on the hood. Her struggles with understanding often lead to the most comic moments.

Often, those are laugh out loud funny, too. I dare you to hold it in when you see her try to attack a certain character because she's told too. Unless you have a heart of stone, you're going to lose. There are also some nice jokes involving Jumbo and his size as well as general bantering amongst all of the characters. Yotsuba leads the parade, but this is an entire cast of very amusing people, any of whom could hold their own as a focal character.

Part of why this series works so well is Azuma's art. He's always able to set up the drawings just right, picking the proper angle to use or giving a character the perfect facial expression to go along with their dialog. Seeing someone like Jumbo jump in the air or having a puzzled bystander look on as Yotsuba does her thing adds so much to this book. It would be fun to read no matter how it was drawn, but I love what Azuma brings to the table.

Yotsuba&! is definitely among my all-time favorite series, and I recommend it to everyone, but especially those who can still feel the wonder in life. You'll see yourself in Yotsuba, and maybe start looking at the world in the way you used to. I know in my case, that certainly wouldn't be a bad thing. If you aren't already hooked on this series, go read it now!