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Monster Dinosaur
posted June 28, 2012

imageCreator: Lewis Trondheim
Publishing Information: Papercutz, hardcover, 32 pages, 2012, $9.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781597073226 (ISBN13)

This is the latest book in the Papercutz English translation of Lewis Trondheim's Monstrueux series. These are books about a family much like Trondheim's own. They are drawn in kind of a big-foot variation of the style the cartoonist uses for the autobiographical works that the Papercutz parent company NBM publishes. As the stories are told mostly from the viewpoint of the family's two children, it's sort of like the best "Billy Draws The Strip" imaginable. The stories revolve around some sort of family activity in which their pet monster Jean-Christophe (Kristoff in the North American version) participates with sweet, outsized, furniture-destroying charm.

In Monster Dinosaur members of the family -- the children as a team, the father on his own and Kristoff in a kind of semi-aborted away -- participate in a local dinosaur-battle contest where magic powder is used to bring drawings to life. This conceit is gracefully explored: the kids' monster looks like it was drawn by a couple of kids, while dad's version finds tactical advantage in the father's attention to detail. Both Kristoff and Kristoff's own drawing get in on the action; those scenes make up the bulk of the action and provide the resolution to the story's central problem. The whole thing is told via a six-panel grid with plenty of text, text that moves along a nice clip while also contributing greatly to the feeling the whole thing seem much more substantial than 32 pages. One of the things that's difficult about castigating certain format choices is that the work in question may or may not itself to a small page count for a slightly bigger price. This work does.

I'm loading this piece up with descriptives because I'm not sure what to say about the artistic accomplishment. It's really enjoyable material; mainstream-oriented in a way that feels approachable with just a touch of the offbeat to make it stand out. It's sort of terrifyingly skilled work; taking in Trondheim's achievements on a book like this one is like watching a natural-born athlete work her way through a series of drills while barely breaking a sweat. If there's a difference between this album and the Christmas-related one I read, it lacks that book's smart hook of the kids reacting to a Christmas spent on vacation rather than at home. In fact, this feels very much a book later on in a series, where the author may assume the readers have some level of interest in the characters. That's hardly a criticism, and I'm not even sure it applies -- it's not hard to understand that classic paradigm of family archetypes, even if one of them is "monster."