The Kurdles

Created by: Robert Goodin

Published by: Fantagraphics

ISBN: 1606998323 (Amazon)

Pages: 60

Genre: Childrens

Website

The Kurdles

Books for kids are a great idea. Comics for kids are probably even better. Highly debatable statements, ahoy. I will say this: while I was a voracious reader as a kid, quality comics were the best thing I could imagine. By fifth grade I was reading War of the Worlds, Dante’s Inferno, and The Odyssey (none of which were assigned reading), but my true love lay in memories of sitting on the floor in bookstores in second grade reading Tintin in Tibet and Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge. I never for one minute imagined that reading comics was some sort of gateway to reading better material. For one, I wasn’t naive. But for another, really I couldn’t imagine something better than the artful blend of text and illustration.11Note: it’s unlikely that I composed my thoughts about comics in quite that sense in fifth grade. Comics are as much perfect for kids as they are for adults. And today, there are so many choices. For every kid, there’s going to be at least one perfect comic out there.

Review of The Kurdles by Robert Goodin

And that variety is one of the things I love. You’ve got the buoyant, adventurous danger of Zita the Spacegirl. There’s the epic and comic longform story of Bone. The whimsy of Hildafolk. The heroing of Leave It to Chance. The excitement for exploration and scientific discovery of Primates. The precious, friendly warmth of Owly. The deaths, murders, and horrors of Tezuka’s Twin Knights. The fanciful investigation of Japanese history in Usagi Yojimbo. Again, something worthwhile for everybody.22The idea that there are great comics out there for every kind of reader is part of the raison d’etre for this site.

The things children’s comics creators will do with their characters are always especially interesting. Generally, there’s some sense that the builders of these fictional realms are emphasizing particular kinds of things because they either think readers will benefit from the focus or because they think readers will find some sort of resonance with the world and characters that appear. In my own children’s book, I feature an unflappable, joyful, immortal girl who knows no sense of danger and encounters terrible terrors (like volcanoes and tsunamis and tigers) as opportunities for play—because I want kids to feel wonder and the magic of living through someone who is blissfully unaware of the trials of real-world living. Robert Goodin, in The Kurdles, aims for something very different by proposing characters who are sometimes sarcastic, sometimes reactive, sometimes clever, sometimes grumpy, and sometimes chill and helpful. And because kids can probably relate to all of that,33 It’s a pretty fair description of my own children, if we throw in sometimes funny and sometimes sweeter than anything you’ve ever encountered. it works great.

Review of The Kurdles by Robert GoodinStone cold

Sally is a bear, a stuffed children’s toy. Abandoned on the roadside on a muddy, rainy night. She’s got a right to a cynical view on life. She fends off predators with a stick and nearly bashes a dog in the head with a stone before discovering he’s friendly. She regrets it but is more defensive than effusive in her apology. She’s almost even self-justifying. I loved that—it struck me as believable, even if not laudable. But who looks to literature for laudability? She then wavers between helpful, sarcastic, afraid, philosophical, and compassionate. I at all times felt a kind of verisimilitude in these characters. Even though Sally’s a teddy bear and Hank is a unicorn with stubble and Phineas is a scarecrow (probably) and Pentapus is… something else. These were characters I could believe in because I’ve met them.

Review of The Kurdles by Robert GoodinThe remorse here is palpable

Goodin’s illustrations are pretty and his colour choices are great. I don’t know if he paints digitally or with traditional watercolours, but in either case he gets mood and time of day right. Check out this full-pager of some night doings:

Review of The Kurdles by Robert Goodin

There’s this hazy, low-saturation vibe that extends throughout. I’m always a bit envious of artists who can pull that off and make it look good (my own work is all about bright bright colours because that’s where I’m comfortable). Goodin also performs these subtle colour changes (such as with Pentapus) that at first look like mistakes until you realize they’re intentional—and that was a pretty exciting moment for me.

Review of The Kurdles by Robert Goodin

The writing’s nice. A bit deadpan. It’s got that dry sense that will be funny to some but doesn’t destroy the flow for those who aren’t in on the joke. The kind of stuff that astute kids will pick up on and enjoy and the kind that will amuse parents whose kids still want them reading aloud. I don’t know whether your kid will love The Kurdles or not. (That gets back to there being the perfect comic for every kid and every kid being their own thing.) But it’s a good book and I recommend checking it out. It’s pegged at ages 6–9, but my 3- and 6-year-olds were amused by it.

 

Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

3 Stars = Good
2 Stars = Ok
1 Star = Bad

I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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