Flight Explorer, Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi, Johane Matte, Kean Soo, Phil Craven, Jake Parker, Steve Hamaker, Ben Hatke, Rad Sechrist, Bannister, and Matthew Armstrong
Villard Books: $10.00
I’m not convinced that there’s a need for a version of Flight that’s specifically aimed at kids, but I’m sure glad there is one. I’ve only read two of the Flight anthologies and I’m struggling to think of anything in them that I wouldn’t read to my six-year-old. Some of the material may go over his head, but that happened in Flight Explorer too. That doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy the heck out of it though.
The piece I’m thinking of in Flight Explorer is “Perfect Cat” by Johane Matte. It’s not so much that it was above my son’s level, but that the moral of the story was a little weird. It’s about a cruel, unlikable Siamese cat in ancient Egypt who feels threatened when a beautiful, fluffy cat moves into the palace. Rather than learn any kind of lesson from the experience though, the Siamese finishes the story just as nasty as he started it. I think we’re supposed to think that’s funny, but it makes the whole story come across as mean-spirited. I don’t think that all children’s stories need to have a moral point to them – sometimes it’s okay just to be funny or entertaining – but I also don’t think it’s all that cool to have an unrepentantly unkind character and show him winning in the end.
I’d suspect that maybe my son is a bit younger than the book’s intended audience except that he so enjoyed the rest of the anthology. In contrast to “Perfect Cat,” Phil Craven’s “Big Mouth” has an intentional moral about being kind to people who are different from you. I had fun reading it too, because I got to yell whenever I read Big Mouth’s dialogue.
Kazu Kibuishi’s wonderful Copper, Jake Parker’s full-of-awesome Missile Mouse, and especially Steve Hamaker’s Fish N Chips were my son’s favorites though. He laughed and laughed over “All in a Days Work,” the Fish N Chips story in which Fish can’t wake Chips up to help save the world and has to do it all by himself. Now he’s making up songs about them and creating sequels in which Chips finally gets off the couch.
We also loved Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl: “If Wishes Were Socks” about a little spacegirl and her two robot pals who save a planet and are awarded a stinky, but magical Wishing Sock. As with most children’s stories about wishes, the friends learn too late that they need to be careful with such power, but we also learn something sweet and meaningful about the characters in the process, which is more than usually happens in that kind of tale.
Bannister’s “Delivery” is also great because it’s about Tarzan being stuck in the jungle version of rush hour traffic. It’s not so much a story as it is a scene, but my wishing that there’d been more of it can’t really be called a complaint.
I thought at first that Rad Sechrist’s Wooden Rivers: “Rain Slickers” was also more scene than story and a confusing one at that. But looking at it again I see that I wasn’t paying close enough attention the first time around. It’s a cute story about a weather-predicting cat, but Sechrist makes you figure out what the cat’s up to on your own. I like that; I just wish I’d figured it out as I was reading it to my son instead of later on my own. Oh well.
Kean Soo’s Jellaby: “First Snow” is very sweet. I liked it more than I liked the Jellaby story in Flight, Volume 5 probably because it has hugging and I’m a sucker for hugging. (See also Matthew Armstrong’s adorable Snow Cap: “2nd Verse” about a little girl and her overly affectionate monster. David and I both “awwwed” over that one.)
I can’t imagine that any of these stories would be inappropriate in a regular volume of Flight, or that most any other Flight story wouldn’t fit here, but hey, the only thing better than Flight is more Flight. If they keep making books like this, I’ll keep reading them. Regardless of the intended demographic.