Johnny Boo by James Kochalka

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Johnny Boo
By James Kochalka
Top Shelf

James KochalkaJames Kochalka, it seems, was born to make children’s books. Given the author’s simple and bold artwork, bright use of colors, and propensity for fantastic storylines starring anthropomorphic animals and non-threatening monsters, it’s actually a bit surprising that he didn’t enter the fray a bit earlier, the family-friendly appeal of the artist largely hampered by boner jokes and characters spewing forth long dialog bubbles of obscenity—perhaps not the ideal subject matter for kindergarteners.

Kochalka’s first picture book, Squirelly Gray, appeared on Random House late last year, a debut no doubt hastened by the arrival of his second son, Oliver.  Johnny Boo, the first in a two book series, marks the author’s return to the medium for which he is best known. The text and the subject matter remain light, however, following the misadventures of two happy, Casper-esque ghost and a cycloptic ice cream monster, with plenty of slapstick action and inoffensive bodily humor thrown in for good measure.

Aimed largely at younger readers, Johnny Boo’s extremely simplistic storyline won’t likely do much to engage even the most loyal of Kochalka’s traditional fanbase. However, those who, like the artist himself, have their own spawn at home, will no doubt appreciate the work as something they can share and appreciate along with their kids.

Hip young parents who swear by generation bridging works like Yo! Gabba Gabba and They Might Be Giants’ No! record will find a lot to like in Kochalka’s good natured book, and heck, there’s something to be said for helping to foster a lifelong appreciation for the comic form early on.

–Brian Heater

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