To be short, because you’ll want me to be: if you have kids, Bolivar should be bought. To be long, if you are a human being with young humans that you look after and care for there is a children’s comic book by Sean Rubin published by Archaia called Bolivar, and it really should become a purchase that you make for said young humans. Told you you’d want ‘short’.
Writer: Sean Rubin
Artist: Sean Rubin
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Comic Store Release Date: November 15 2017
Book Store Release Date: November 22 2017
Bumf: Sybil knows that there is something off about her next door neighbor, but she can't seem to get anyone to believe her. Everyone is so busy going about their days in the busy streets of New York City that they don't notice Bolivar. They don't notice his odd height, his tiny arms, or his long tail. No one but Sybil sees that Bolivar is a dinosaur.
When an unlikely parking ticket pulls Bolivar into an adventure from City Hall to New York’s Natural History Museum, he must finally make a choice: Bolivar can continue to live unnoticed, or he can let the city see who he really is.
As I was reading this and reminiscing about living in NYC, Rubin’s Bolivar reminded me of Spot the dog, for reasons which I have no idea flew around my brain. It can’t be the only children’s book reference I have as a go-to, meaning I was obviously not in my right mind (which actually turned out to be true as I was having some issues writing this) so I took to Google to help me out. I was way off, even on age-range. This book probably sits higher than “what is Spot doing now?” That isn’t to say that there isn’t stuff in here for younger kids; finding Bolivar on some pages is activity enough even for someone nearing 40. Perhaps it’s just the style that maybe elevates it above simple blocked colours and suchlike.
It’s that style that means that Bolivar probably won’t be a hard purchase, because it’s just a lovely, gorgeous slab of a hardcover, made in Archaia fashion, straight after Mouse Guard. Purely on the thick paper stock and matte cover alone that’d do its thing alongside its bigger brother. Though even if it were to go pound for pound against Petersen’s petite protectors, I think the art would hold up. It’s hard to talk about so enjoy me fail after the first two pages from the preview (that continues throughout).
The hashed pencil work and muted tones are very much akin to David Petersen‘s Mouse Guard series. It’s no mistake that it’s mentioned in the same sentences in the blurbs and praise.
However, this doesn’t hold the same darkness that the Mouse Guard books can hold, and it’s a lot more simple and literal in its depiction of story and themes. That doesn’t mean it can’t do good visual work — witness on this very page how the scene pans down and to the hut. But there’s no darkness needed here (perhaps a slither of a lack of human empathy?) because of the age range it hits. But in a story about how to treat your fellow man with softness, a soft touch on the art is required.
That story? Well, essentially Bolivar is about a person who wants to be left alone, a kid that sees more than everyone else, and, well, it’s about being ignored, too. I’m sure if someone wanted to go deeper they might see other themes, or could align some of this to current events, but I don’t really think that’s there — or at least I don’t see it.
As a sidebar, I do also see a nice strain of a love note, in the background of this, to the people of New York and how ridiculously tied up in their own stuff they are. It’s true of New Yorkers, and (to a lesser extent) the rest of us, that we don’t step outside ourselves enough to see the things that kids see, on a daily basis, that are mind blowing — especially for them.
Less hidden than said love note is how this is a parable of acceptance of your fellow man (or dinosaur). I tend to push against the grain a little on NYC’s famed multi-cultural mecca of harmony, in that I feel it is still ghetto-ised. You cross the street and it’s Italian, not Chinese, or Hasidic, not PuertoRican/Dominican. That sounds less like acceptance and more like basic tolerance; there’s a difference. Digression aside, this book shows that just because Sybil’s neighbour might look the similar to all the scary ones that Sybil is taught about, it doesn’t mean that Bolivar is the same as them. Still talking about dinosaurs.
Now, of course, books like these exist in the children’s circles, but Bolivar feels like it’s not battering anyone over the head with anything that could otherwise make a story a little tough going. This book is fun, and Sybil is a lovely little centre to that, leading the reader.
Basically, yes, I can wholeheartedly state that this first, hardcover edition of this book is easily worth its weight in, well, in paper. Your kids (from 8 years up, probably) will lap this up, and you might, too. Because, let’s face it: who hasn’t been ignored by everyone at some point? Buy this; buy it hard with all of your money bucks. I shall be doing so, but mostly because it’s coming up to the primary gifting period, and apparently small humans like to be given things.
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