The problem with most all ages books is they tend to be too focused on keeping the material safe for children. That means nothing weird, awkward or material that will make the little ones confused. The content might still contain jokes or content only the adults get, but it also usually means the content is so easily digestible it’s telegraphing its meaning with very little thought required.
Usually that can make for a very boring read, so call me crazy when I was interested in reading an all ages book from Fantagraphics called The Kurdles. Question is, does it work for adults and children alike?
The Kurdles (Fantagraphics Publishing)
When you start reading The Kurdles you’ll probably first note the art, reminiscent of Pogo with the cartoony nature of the characters yet very realistic surroundings. The realism of the environments help make the characters stand out and feel otherworldly. Even the main character, a teddy bear who loses its child owner, looks slightly less like a toy and more like an honest to goodness bear. This combination gives the book a magical feel that’s at once captivating and endearing.
Poor Sally. I mean the bear of course!
The story and art are done by Robert Goodin and once again he proves when a work is done all in one by a creator it turns out stronger for it. Tarantino and Woody Allen aside, this graphic novel gels nicely with a fantastic pace that’s filled with whimsy. The story kicks off with a teddy bear named Sally sitting alone in a car outside a toy store. Her owner is a whiny child who wants a new doll and doesn’t get it; in retaliation she throws Sally out the window and that’s when Sally’s journey begins. This all takes place on a dark and stormy night, of course, and after an unexpected ride from an owl and a night all alone in the cold Sally meets with an interesting cast of characters. These characters are otherworldly and weird to the point where it’s unclear if they too are cast away toys. At this point the story introduces a problem — their treehouse home is growing fur, and sparks the group of new friends into working together. Ultimately The Kurdles is a story about loneliness and friendship that any child can understand and enjoy.
Our cast of characters.
Goodin makes it fun for the adult crowd by instilling smaller, more introspective moments for Sally as she learns what it means to have friends she can talk to. No longer is she a silent teddy bear slave, but able to make her own decisions and face the repercussions of what her actions might mean. We root for her as she tries to make heads or tails of this very alien situation she’s in; on top of this the home that’s growing hair is strange and weird. These things combine to make something similar to The Muppets in its ability to capture your imagination and childlike wonder.
That house is freaky!
Is It Good?
The Kurdles is a story for all ages with plenty of fun, weirdness and childhood innocence that captivates your imagination and jolts you with some of that nostalgic wonderment that made childhood so grand.