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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Upside Down. A Vampire Tale. Jess Smart Smiley (Writer & Artist) Top Shelf Productions (2011)

Vampires, sweets, witches allied with smart energetic storytelling, distinctive art and lashings of clever ideas make this really enjoyable comic. Harold is a young vampire who lives inside a piano and loves sweets, which is a problem when he visits the dentist. Vermillion is a wonderfully nasty witch  who manages to become the sole surviving witch in the world and has plans for world domination, plans that depend on getting her hands on a formula created by Professor Adams. A cunningly staged plot follows as Harold tries to stop Vermillion, save his parents and be a vampire without teeth.
The story is straightforward and takes readers of any age seriously enough to believe they deserve first rate plot mechanics. Vermillion is a truly splendid villain, enough malice to be dangerous and durable enough to be a genuine problem for Harold. The story has a an abundance of clever ideas and sharp turns to make a very satisfying read. Among the cast are vampire frogs which are not only a fantastic idea in their own right they way they emerge is a really nice piece of storytelling logic.
The bold and energetic art is a joy, using just three colours it never feels restricted or underpowered, instead Jess Smart Smiley uses really strong shapes and outlines to make the most of the possibilities. The action is fast and furious, the emotions are conveyed with force and clarity. The art has a very satisfying homemade look about it, this strongly supports the bold lines of the story and the overall personality of the book. It looks like someone in particular drew it, it gives it a happy personal touch.
Jess Smart Smiley has taken a storytelling standard, a child trying to escape a problem finds themselves in trouble and has to be a hero to save their parents and given it a charming and very entertaining twist, keeping within the basic structures but giving enough new flavour to the story to capture why it is a standard in the first place. A seasonal treat that would be good any time of year.
Here are some Halloween activity sheets to test your spooky skills on.

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