Amelia Rules! by Jimmy Gownley

Simon and Schuster provided me with copies of the first two volumes of Amelia Rules!, a comic book about Amelia Louise McBride, a nine-year-old girl who moved to a small town with her recently-divorced mom. I’d seen the second volume at our library and read through it, but I think it does help to have the first book to establish some of the characters and setting, and it made more sense reading it from the beginning.

The books consist of short chapters, each a self-contained story, usually told as a flashback with Amelia breaking the fourth wall to introduce the story and wrap it up at the end. We meet her gang of new friends, including Reggie (“Captain Amazing”), Rhonda (who hates Amelia because she thinks she’s after Reggie) and Pajamaman (a little kid with big glasses who always wears footie pajamas and doesn’t speak). It reminded me a little of Calvin and Hobbes, not so much in the artwork and style but because of high level of conflict between kids. There’s bullying and name-calling, dressing up like superheroes to fight evil (or expose the fraud of Santa Claus), misbehaving in school and getting sent to the principal’s office. But because Amelia Rules! is told in short stories rather than a series of strips, Gownley is able to get a little more in-depth with some of the subject matter without having to throw in a punchline every few frames.

Don’t get me wrong—it is a funny series. But it also addresses some heavier subjects as well. The first two volumes deal with divorce, particularly how Amelia sees it. Amelia visits her dad in New York City, and you can sense her joy to be hanging out with her dad mixed with the pain of knowing that he and her mom won’t be together again. In one story her best friend from the city is there, too, and it’s a bittersweet time getting to hang out and then having to leave again.

The artwork is pretty good—not my favorite but not bad—but really shines in certain spots: when Reggie goes off on a long-winded explanation it switches to diagrams on blue graph paper with plenty of fake Latin. Occasionally there are sections made to look like old newspaper comics or comic books—in one scene when Amelia’s dad is reminiscing about his marriage and courtship, there are sections that parody old Peanuts and Doonesbury strips.

The main thing that makes me hesitant to let my 7-year-old start reading them is the name-calling and fighting. Amelia and her friends fight a lot, and they say pretty mean things to each other, things that I’d rather not hear my daughter repeating. For older kids who have already been exposed to this sort of thing in real life, maybe it’s not such a big deal, but I don’t feel the book portrays a sharp tongue and ready fists as bad things. Also, the kids tend to use “nerd” and “geek” as derogatory terms, even though Reggie himself is most definitely a geek. (He started the Gathering of Awesome Super Pals and often references Star Trek and other geeky topics.)

Overall, I think the Amelia Rules! series is one that kids will enjoy, both boys and girls, and I think it’s particularly good for the way it handles some difficult subjects like divorce and growing up. There’s a good bit of spite and malice, but there are also moments of tenderness—despite the exaggerations, a lot of it feels real.

For more about Amelia and her pals, visit the Amelia Rules! website.

Note: this review was originally written for GeekDad as part of my Stories About Girls series.

Fed to jonathan's brain | February 16, 2011 | Comments (0)


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