I’ve been struggling with this book for a while.
There’s a lot to love about it, but what I’m not in love with is how Rocco has drawn the central characters. Is this just a personal dislike or is it actually a problem with the book? I don’t love beans, but that doesn’t make succotash a bad dish.
Most of the time I can tell whether a problem like this is mine or the book’s. If it’s just a “pet peeve” (ironically, I dislike that phrase for no rational reason), I request that the book be assigned to a different reviewer. This time, though, I’ll present my case and let you all tell me if I’m being a picky eater/reader.
BUT FIRST, here’s why I think this is a book the Committee will be talking about.
The pacing is as self-assured as an expertly edited movie. Beginning with a comic book format showing Egielski-ish city scenes, the panels, speech balloons, and caption boxes lead us along introducing the setting and characters. “And then…” (page turn) Whoa! No more white space around floating panels. Full bleed. Midnight blue background with subtle cross-hatching. Three horizontal city scenes with progressively fewer lit windows: “The lights / went / out.”
If you haven’t gotten your hands on this book yet, do. I’m guessing it’s a sure-fire hit in a group and will make the adult reading it aloud look like an expert storyteller. Rocco treats each scene like a suspense movie. Check out the overhead shot. It’s not just a Hitchcock homage but a clue to what will happen on the next spread. Genius.
Okay, you can see I love this book…except for those people. The settings are quite realistic and in TV terms most of this book would be classified as a drama, but to me the main characters have a sit-com feel all the way through. It’s not so much that some of them have elongated bodies and heads. I can see that this is Rocco’s style. My problem is with the facial expressions. I feel as if there are a finite number of eye and mouth positions and as a result the characters sometimes seem to be overacting or even mugging. I find this distracting, taking me away from my wholehearted belief in what is happening.
Isn’t John Rocco allowed to draw his people any darn way he wants? Is this my problem or a valid complaint?