By Rutu Modan
32 pages, color
Published by Toon Books
Toon Books is a publisher that specializes in a synthesis of children’s books and comics. These books use the structure of both mediums to form beautiful graphic novels aimed at children of different ages that not only serve as gateways to comics, but also are genuinely enjoyable in their own right. With three new books being released by Toon Books, today’s “Quick Takes” reviews focus on the latest publications from Toon.
Maya Makes a Mess is the first children’s book I’ve seen by Actus comic collective creator Rutu Modan, but I hope it won’t be the last. It takes a familiar litany from a parent—asking a child to show some manners when eating at the table—and turns it nicely on its ear when Maya’s father’s threat, "What if you were eating dinner with the Queen?" is suddenly put to the test when Maya receives an invitation to do just that. At its core, Maya Makes a Mess is a beautiful flight of fancy from a child who imagines a theoretical situation playing out in only the way that a kid can, and it’s pitch-perfect. Every little step of Maya’s journey is well told, and it’s all in Maya’s voice, with that childlike yet wide-eyed exuberance. Parents might not be able to teach their children the manners they want through Maya Makes a Mess, but they will surely teach them fun.
Modan’s art looks great here too; she packs in a ton of detail on every page, especially when it comes to the banquet. With lots of tiny, intricate lines the pages have a lot to examine, from strands of spaghetti to petals on flowers. Half of the fun is just watching what’s going on in every page; Modan doesn’t skimp on a single page, and because of that Maya Makes a Mess is wonderfully re-readable. You’re almost guaranteed to see something new each time, and that’s a rarity in a children’s book. I was delighted to see Toon publish a children’s book from indy comic artist R. Kikuo Johnson (The Shark King) earlier this year, and it’s a joy to see them cast that net wide once more with Modan. All in all, another winner from Modan and Toon Books.