BOOK REVIEW: Frank Pe’s Little Nemo by Frank Pé

Frank Pe's Little NemoFrank Pe’s Little Nemo by Frank Pé
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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This is a comic strip character / concept redux of material created in the early 20th century by Winsor McCay. It features surreal scenes from the dreamworld of an imaginative and sleepy boy. The artwork of Frank Pé’s revisitation of Nemo’s dreams is stunningly beautiful and brilliantly creative. But…

I would argue that it’s not a good children’s book for two reasons. First, there are a few panels that are likely to prompt questions / conversations that most parents probably don’t want to deal with during story-time. In particular, there’s some prominent cigarette and smoking imagery. It does contribute to the book’s retro feel. When the original strip came out in 1905, there was probably lots of smoking in it (maybe even some product placement advertising by tobacco companies,) but by today’s standards it’s conspicuous and controversial. I won’t get into the few other questionable frames, but they exist. (Though most of it is perfectly kid-friendly.)

Second, there is a segment or two that use vocabulary that will send many parents to the dictionary just to be able to decipher the speaker’s comments for their child. This is a shame because it’s not this way throughout the book. As with the questionable art, most of the book is perfectly manageable as a children’s book. I’m not sure whether Pé was seeking to be true to the original, or whether he thought it was fitting for a children’s book, but with relatively few edits I think it would be much more suitable for children.

For adults who are interested comic strips (historically or artistically,) I’d highly recommend this book. For those considering it as a book for a child, I’d consider whether some grandiloquent vocabulary and a provocative frame or two are troubling, and decide accordingly.

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