Bean Dog and Nugget: The Ball
By Charise Mericle Harper
Alfred A. Knopf (Random House)
In stores May 14, 2013
“I am a former child, and I haven’t forgotten a thing.”
-Ursula Nordstrom, Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom
Getting into the minds of kids ain’t easy. As we grow up, we can forget what it’s like to have something simple, like say a ball, consume our entire world. Good kids books are created by people who remember. In the new early graphic novel series Bean Dog and Nugget, it’s clear that Charise Mericle Harper hasn’t forgotten a thing. This is a common childhood situation, presented in a way that kids will identify with.
Bean Dog is pretty excited about his orange ball. When a game of catch with friend Nugget goes awry, the beloved ball ends up deep in the bushes. The pair are forced to work together to get Bean Dog’s prized possession back.
While the general feel is that Bean Dog is the trusting one and Nugget is the somewhat sneaky one, both characters show a full range of emotions. Part of what makes them believable is that they aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. They get mad. They (hilariously) follow through on bad ideas. But they also work together and make amends quickly, as friends do.
The artwork is as simplistic as it comes. Stick figures and a splash of orange is about it. This approach puts the emphasis on the plot and dialogue, rather than elaborate visuals. Given that this is a book for lower elementary students that hinges on the relationship between the two main characters, it all makes sense. The basic artwork may also encourage readers to create their own Bean Dog and Nugget adventures.
I kept being reminded of Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie series while reading this book. The look and format is quite different, but there’s plenty of overlap in the emotions and themes.
With the help of Bean Dog and Nugget, the young end of the graphic novel spectrum continues to expand. This is a fine first book in a series to watch for.
Digital review copy from Edelweiss.