Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Book Review: Amelia Rules! The Whole World's Crazy, by Jimmy Gownley (Renaissance Press, 2006)
Recommended for ages 9-12
Jimmy Gownley's graphic novels about Amelia McBride and her group of friends remind me of Bugs Bunny cartoons - when you're a child, they entertain you; when you're a little older, you get the jokes.
In this first volume, we meet Amelia, age nine. Her parents have just divorced and she and her mom have moved from Manhattan to "the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania". They're living with her Aunt Tanner, a retired pop rock star who also acts as Amelia's ear and shoulder when she needs to vent.
Amelia's a wise-cracking tomboy, but she isn't skin deep. We see how her parents' divorce has affected her, whether it's the frustration and anger at her father canceling plans with her because of last-minute work travel or her discomfort in overhearing her mother berating her dad on the phone. She shakes it off, adapts her hard-as-nails persona, and moves on. We all know kids like Amelia, and that's what makes her so accessible to kids and grownups alike.
Speaking of grown-ups, there are plenty of in-jokes for mom and dad to catch. Amelia and her friends go to Joseph McCarthy Middle School (motto: "Weeding out the wrong element since 1952"). Ann Coulter garners a mention on one of Santa's lists (hint: it ain't the "nice" list). There are pop culture references aplenty. The dialogue is funny and smart; Gownley doesn't talk down to his audience, nor does he shy away from sensitive topics.
Amelia's friends are a mixed bag of personalities. Amelia's friend Reggie is obsessed with being a superhero, to the point of starting his own league of heroes called GASP (Gathering of Awesome Super Pals). Pajamaman is the most popular kid in school, but never speaks, wears footie pajamas, and comes from a poor family. Rhonda, Amelia's nemesis (and grudgingly, good friend), has a crush on Reggie and puts herself in competition with Amelia for his attention. The group deals with bullies and crazy teachers, unrequited love and poverty. It's a group of kids that readers will see themselves reflected in.
The Amelia Rules! website offers even more to Amelia fans. There are book trailers, podcasts, a blog, and links to fan art and fan fiction. Visitors can listen to music in Tanner's Garage and play games in the Ninja Lair.