Wednesday 29 January 2020

The Runaway Princess

A new graphic novel imprint from a major publisher is something to be celebrated – comics and graphic novels certainly need the investment and promotion. The Runaway Princess marks the first release from Random House Graphic which will focus on books for kids and younger teens.

It’s worth pointing out that despite the title and the slightly fearful look of the central character on the cover of the book, the story and mood within its pages is entirely fun and offbeat – the princess is running towards adventure rather than away from something fearful. She soon meets a small group of boys who remain her friends throughout the book. The fairy-tale world is full of impossibilities (mermaids in bubbles, floating baths, little pumpkin people) and the three stories have an air of aimless whimsy told in child-like art like a far-flung offshoot from the Dungeon series by the great Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar. The colouring is almost neon in its vividness which heightens a sense of the alien to the familiar shapes of castles, giants and fish floating through the air.

Importantly, the characters are all charming. Princess Robin is eternally curious and good-natured – I particularly loved how, even when she is kidnapped, she helps her kidnappers write ransom notes and convinces them to put on a musical show for the people that turn up with the ransom so that they will feel that they have got value for money.
The format is quite short and chunky, which may be a challenge for little fingers, but there are some nice pages of interactivity such as mazes, spot-the-character-in-a-crowd, or even a request to the reader to close the book and shake it! 

There have been plenty of studies about the benefits of reading with with regards to social and cognitive development, whether thru traditional novels or sequential art. The key is in recognising the variety within the medium, from story genre to art style, which is why it's so important when a publisher like Random House enters the market because the more books on the market, the more chance people have of finding something that their kids will love. 

You can check out an interview with the creator Johan Troianowski on The Beat here.

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