Luke on the Loose

By Harry Bliss
32 pages, color
Published by Toon Books

On the whole I’ve been pretty pleased with the Toon Books lineup of comics and picture books for children, especially titles like Otto’s Orange Day and Stinky. Generally speaking, they’ve grabbed my attention almost instantly, dragging me into the story. I was a little surprised, then, when I read Harry Bliss’s Luke on the Loose. In many ways, I think this is a first for Toon Books—in that while the main story is just average, it’s the re-readability of the book that makes it interesting.

Luke is bored. Really bored. He’s at the park with his dad, but Dad and someone else are doing the worst thing possible… Boring dad talk! So when Luke sees a flock of pigeons, it’s his chance for fun as he chases after them. The only problem is, Dad’s left in the dust with no idea where Luke is. Can Dad find Luke before Luke gets himself into even more trouble than anyone would think possible?

Luke on the Loose is aimed for readers in the kindergarten through 2nd grade range, but this actually felt a little too slight for readers of that age in places. It’s a very straightforward story, with Luke running through New York City and creating havoc everywhere he goes. Being a children’s story, there’s a happy ending, and a (slight) lesson to be learned in the form of consequences for Luke running off without his parents. What started to catch my interest, though, was re-reading the book and noticing all the little details. The jogger being chased by the dog, complete with dog dragging a struggling owner at the other end of the leash. The rabbit and the mouse gawking at Luke’s sprint through traffic. The cat gasping with a paw over its mouth as Luke soars through the air. Anyone who’s been forced to read the same book to a child, over and over again, will find the little extras peppered throughout Luke on the Loose nothing short of a godsend. Not only is it something to keep them amused, but it’s a great thing to start pointing out to the child. "What’s going on there? What do you think will happen to her?"

The art itself is simplistic but pleasant. There’s not a terrible amount of detail put into the characters, keeping them just well-defined enough that they’re easily recognized from one page to the next. Sometimes that works in his favor, because it lets his characters have especially exaggerated and comical expressions as the insanity unfolds around them. Other times, though, it gets a little frustrating. Bliss’s dogs all look the same, for instance, and it took several re-reads to decide for certain that they were all supposed to be different animals across the town. Interestingly enough, there are bits and pieces where Bliss did put in a lot of detail, like the run across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s strange because on the one hand, it looks really beautiful, but at the same time it almost seems to stand out in contrast to the rest of the book.

Luke on the Loose is a perfectly fine book, if a little slighter than I’m used to from Toon Books. Still, it’s a nice overall experience, and adults who might have to read it over and over again will have fun looking in the backgrounds. (Hey, is that Olive Oyl? A wanted poster for the Hulk?) There’s a little something for everyone, here.

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