By James Burks
Publisher: Yen Press
Like comics in a newsagent, it seems that booksellers donít have a clue how and where to stock this book. From itís description, intended for all ages, and from itís content, a lengthy large-panelled comic strip, Iíd have expected to find this in the Comics & Graphic Novel section, but Amazon stocks it with the childrenís books and Waterstoneís had it underneath a pile of Bunny Suicides in humour.
James Burks is an animator with an impressive bunch of movies under his belt, and in Gabby & Gator heís brought the skills of a visual storyteller to the printed page. The book opens with a sepia-toned section beginning with a newspaper advert to own a Louisiana farm-raised gator - only $2.50 - and a coupon, already snipped from the page. An excited snub-nosed boy is then seen excitedly racing around the house clutching his newly delivered package which he wrenches open in order to reveal the timid and tiny reptile quavering inside. Within seconds the family dog is involved and thereís chaos followed by the inevitable instruction to flush the gator down the toilet.
Ten years later and the town is suffering from a spate of missing dogs due to the hunger pangs of an over-sized gator on the loose. We get to meet lonely Gabby, an outsider who it appears has to spend much of the time fending for herself. She enjoys her vegetable garden, recycling and playing the tuba.
She is often at the sharp end of the local bullyís wit, and on this particular occasion Gator is within earshot when the bully threatens to flush Gabbyís hat down the loo. Still raw from his own experience, Gator comes to the rescue and a new friendship is formed.
Much of the book is wordless, allowing the creatorís illustrative skills to tell the tale, and he does so with a charm that captures childhood innocence and the bonds of friendship, but with a little darker humour thrown in (heís a hungry alligator after all) to give it a devilish edge. You certainly warm to them both, particularly Gator who is constantly battling the need to feed with his desire to be accepted. I wouldnít be at all surprised to see them again, be it in print or on the screen some time in the near future.
And if you liked that: Read Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa and printed by First Second. A truly wonderful book.