Have you met The Flying Beaver Brothers? These two fun-loving semi-aquatic rodents are the stars of Maxwell Eaton III's new graphic novel series. The first two volumes were released simultaneously, giving me instant gratification as I raced through the first book and immediately reached for the second.
#1: The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan
#2: The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Fishy Business
From the get-go, it's obvious that Ace is the smarter brother, creating contraptions and inventions while his brother, Bub, gets distracted and takes naps. However, the pair work well together, and they are both always important to the plot and the solution. When dealing with evil penguins (who, for some reason, don't have eyeballs), up-to-no-good fishes, and other baddies, the beavers somehow always sort things out - a little intentionally (usually Ace), a little accidentally (usually Bub).
If you like the Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, you'll like The Flying Beaver Brothers. Similar to the Holms' style, Eaton uses only three colors for his illustrations here: black, white, and one bold accent color. The contrast is not only eye-catching, but also effective, as the accent color is specific to the tone of each volume: blue for volume 1, with all of its shenanigans in the sea, and bright green for volume 2, showcasing the forest and the fishes' (false) efforts to "go green."
Not all graphic novels fall into the read-aloud category, but this series would be fun to read with kids, letting different people play the roles of the different animals. The dialogue is silly and fast, and it's funny without ever being gross or rude. There are lots of giggles to be found in these pages, in these pictures and these words. Writer/illustrator Maxwell Eaton has great comic timing; he takes beats when he needs to, putting in panels without dialogue when needed and showing the characters' reactions and interactions clearly. Also, the character names are really fun to say. How often do you meet someone named Bub? Then there are the penguins, Bob and Bob, one of whom speaks perfect English while the other makes "Ka!" sounds. I loved the scene in book #2 when Bob consults his spatula, whom he named Cynthia earlier in the story. This scene made me laugh out loud, and it included a dialogue-free reaction panel as I mentioned earlier, a classic sitcom beat.
I wonder if Ace and Bub have watched the cartoon The Angry Beavers. I think they'd get a kick out of Daggett and Norbert's zany adventures.
I wonder if Bob and Bob have watched The Wrong Trousers, an animated film by Nick Park which features a villainous penguin named Feathers McGraw. (The Wrong Trousers is easily my favorite Wallace & Gromit outing, and one of the few stop-motion films I've truly enjoyed.)
I really hope there are otters in a future installment, and that they are on the side of good, not evil. Maybe they could be Ace and Bub's long-lost cousins...? In any event, I'll definitely be checking it out.
Age/Reading Level: I recommend this series to ages 8 and up; to families with young kids; and to reluctant readers in elementary school.
Sneak a peek at The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan.
Read the beginning of The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Fishy Business.