When Amelia McBride’s parents split, she and her mom find themselves in a new home in a new town with young Amelia left to make new friends. But with her busy nine-year-old imagination and tendency for trouble, friends may be a bit hard to come by. Yet she has managed to collect an eclectic group of friends including the fumbling Reggie, the silent, but styling Pajamaman, and antagonistic polar-opposite Rhonda.
Whether at school, home, or lost somewhere in their overactive imaginations,
together the quartet manages to get in and out of trouble with great gusto and amusement on a regular basis,
like any group of friends should do while growing up.
Jimmy Gownley’s engaging romp through childhood adventures captures both a whimsical nostalgia that will appeal to adults while also feeling authentic and amusing enough for young readers to appreciate. Each book is broken up into parts further separated into episodes, so one can easily read an episode or two in a single sitting before going on to something else. It’s no surprise that this series has received numerous awards since its inception in 2001, including the Harvey Award and Eisner Award.
The crisp art grabs readers’ attention with the colorful displays used in much of today’s animation. But Gownley goes farther in his artistic endeavor than just color and lines. While the majority of his panels are consistent and formulaic, he often enough breaks out of such standards and experiments, mixing up formats and panels, eliminating borders, or reversing background colors. Ultimately, the art adds life to the already exuberant Amelia.
Gownley’s talent is not only in his storytelling but in the layered level of humor and self-referential jokes at the comic book industry as a whole. For instance, while attending school, Amelia passes the school sign which reads, “Joe McCarthy: Weeding out the wrong element since 1952.” In school, we find the drill sergeant-like gym teacher, Ms. Barkley, virtually killing off students one by one while Mr. Norris, the “Teaching Respect and Anger Management in Preteens” teacher, reveals a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality that would make the Incredible Hulk jealous. This kind of humor can be found throughout Gownley’s books and it’s what makes it so enjoyable. Much like The Simpsons or Shrek, it’s the in-between humor that grabs adults and children (often for different reasons) and makes these books so enjoyable.
Surprisingly, none of the three volumes have extras. While they have guest introductions Megan McDonald (Volume I), Mark Crilley (Volume 2), Bob Schooley, and Mark McCorkle (Volume 3) and a brief author biography, they remain barren of any additional morsels. This is too bad, since one can imagine all sorts of extras Gownley might include. Of course, the usual stuff is: art and sketch galleries, interviews, short pieces, etc. However, given the humorous tone, Gownley could easily provide bonus material, such as an annotated break-down of Amelia’s room, or a top ten mistakes list.
Regardless, the series shines, and readers both young and old can expect to smile and even laugh at Amelia’s exploits. Gownley proves he has not lost touch with his inner child, and his books are a great source of nostalgia and enjoyment for one and all.