April 7, 2015

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Sleepless Knight by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost


Created by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost
Published by First Second

A Knight and his trusty horse go out for a comedic camping trip, but when a favorite toy goes missing, the Knight is on an adventure to find it in a cute picture book for small children.

Spinning out of the Adventures in Cartooning series, this book would be right at home with readers who are probably out of Richard Scarry territory and around the Berenstain Bears in terms of their reading level. It's a more traditional young readers book, as compared to, say, the work of James Kochalka, and there are "how to draw" instructions on the inside covers, ranging from basic circles to putting the main characters of the story in some funny poses.

The story itself is pretty typical of what I remember from this level of reading, though that was ages ago for me, and I don't have children. Knight is your typical nice, but clueless main character, whose actions impact on someone else, in this case, his horse. He stumbles around, gets in trouble, and in the end, all is right, as everyone gets along. There's no big moral lesson, just some visual gags (like the horse taking on so much stuff, the length of their journey, and of course, mistaking a teddy bear for a real one). Nothing here for adults. This is not a comic with multi-age layering.

I'm not sure how the art duties are broken up, but they do the job well for a book of this level. The linework is deceptively simple, looking like something a kid can also draw, but if you peel back the layers, you can see the more advanced details, like the layering of the backgrounds, a surprising commitment to visual continuity (check how the items in the bag are placed), and of course, the ability to have the Knight, the horse, and the other characters show up in any pose needed.

As with all of the all-ages work from First Second, the production values are top notch. The book is a hefty hardcover that will take a few hits from the kids reading it, the pages are nice and glossy, and the coloring on Sleepless Knight is very bold, though not bright (because its mostly set in the evening). It's the kind of comic that can be taken in the car, to the park, or a friend's house.

Naturally, Sleepless Knight has a limited audience. It's purely a kid's book, as I mentioned above. However, I think it does work really well for what it's intended, and if you have a young reader (maybe 4-6?), this should be not only something they'd enjoy--but something they can read on their own, too.

Sleepless Knight is out now from First Second.