Babymouse, for those of you who are not familiar with the cute little pink book series, is the heroine of a series of graphic novels aimed at young girls, the same people who read the easy chapter series about the adventures of spunky young girls, essentially. (around grades 2-4) They are cute and funny and easy to read, a nice intro to graphics for this group.

But today? I’m not talking girly – I’m talking yucky, gross, and full of slime and amoebas, and yet unexpectedly wholesome. This ain’t Babymouse – this is her boy-market equivalent, Squish.

squish 3.jpgSquish: The Power of the Parasite
Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

Random House
ISBN: 978 0 375 84391 4

While the Babymouse series is aimed at girls and printed in pink and black, this series is clearly aimed at boys, and printed in green and black, which nice reflects that the characters are, quite literally, pond scum. Yes, Squish is an amoeba, as are his friends Peggy and Pod – the lot of them live in a pond.

Squish’s mom has signed him up for swim camp, and since his friends are going to ballet camp instead, and he is too terrified of the water to join the crowd, he finds himself an unexpected new friend, Basil, a hydra. After a few days, though, Basil starts showing a bit of a mean streak, and Squish is not too comfortable with it. So what’s a little amoeba to do? The right thing, it turns out, as he goes to talk to the counselor about Basil, gets rid of him with a nifty ballet trick his friend showed him, and learns to swim after all.

Squish’s story is intercut with scenes from the Super Amoeba comic book he’s reading, where his hero faces much the same sort of dilemma with his new partner, reinforcing the idea, and possibly suggesting the solution Squish needed. This could make for a heavy-handed lesson in some cases, but here? The tone is light, the little asides humourous, and the character relateable, so the whole package comes across as something they can see happening to them, if it hasn’t already. It’s good stuff for this age, when friendship s are so important and getting trickier to navigate, and the handling keeps it from being preachy. You really couldn’t do much better for a cute, sweet, but boy-friendly early graphic. (That said, the key is boy-friendly, but nto *just* for boys – I’m giving this one to Girl 8, who will love it.)

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