Monday, March 11, 2013
Book Review: TOTALLY AWESOME, SUPER-COOL BIBLE STORIES by Thomas Nelson
WHY I PICKED IT UP: I was browsing Comics and Graphic Novels in NetGalley when I came upon this title. I'm a practicing Catholic, so I was interested in how modern Christians are trying to appeal to the youth and pass on the tradition of a religion that is sometimes dismissed as being old-fashioned.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The premise of the book is that a modern-day sixth grader named "Nerdy Ned" is really into Christianity and wants to be a comic book artist when he grows up, so he's telling Bible stories in his own way. He selects stories from the Old and New testaments, and all stories are accompanied by illustrations and commentary by Nerdy Ned. Often, he relates these stories to events and people in his life.
*The author achieves a fun, kid-like tone throughout, so it feels like Nerdy Ned is actually talking to you.
*The stories relating to Ned's life were great ways to make the Biblical tales more understandable. I liked that he had recurring characters such as his sister Pen, his friend Big A, and the bully Howie.
*I was impressed by how many strong female characters he included in the Old Testament section. You don't always hear about Deborah among the more popular role models from the OT, but she's pretty awesome and deserves to be lauded. It's nice to see the author represent both genders this way.
*The comedy was really tame and not exactly directed at people my age, but I could totally see it working for the target crowd. And I did find myself laughing at a few jokes.
*The whole New Testament, I was wondering how he would handle two sections: The Crucifixion and Revelations. They seemed awkward for a light and airy children's book. But the author handles them well. He takes the Crucifixion head-on, preluding it by basically saying Hey, this is going to be sad. We're going to take a break from the laughs. But it's important, so hang in there and read on. It was tactful. And Revelations was explained simply - which isn't an easy feat, so was kind of a relief.
*The illustrations were simple, which is fine, but they were pretty bizarre. Like, the perspective was unusual. This made on drawing of a donkey and other animals pretty adorable and hilarious, but most of the time the people kinda freaked me out. Even so, that could just be stylistic, except I felt that the illustrations did not contribute much to the story. Often, they had less voice and character than Nerdy Ned himself, and they reiterated what had already been added instead of supplementing the tale with visual humor.
*It's nit-picky, sure, but it bothered me that the science teacher was named Sarah Bellum because of the obvious pun (and one that the Power Puff Girls already did in the 90s). People in real life rarely have pun names like that, and none of the other characters did, so this made a believable cast a little less believable.
*Perhaps it's a difference in translation, but some of the stories had me fact-checking. They were certainly a little different than the Bible versions I have (for example, the Garden of Eden retelling).
*Okay, you know how kids can become embarrassed when their parents try to use the vernacular of the everyday high-schooler, like saying "Epic" at inappropriate times? This book, every once in a while, veers into that territory. One too many "totally"s or "awesome"s (i.e, the title). It's a valiant effort, but every once in a while it doesn't feel casual, and might provoke eye-rolling.
OVERALL RATING: An excellent introduction to Bible stories-- well, for a certain age-group. I could see this book being acted out at a Vacation Bible School or handed out as gifts at the end of Parish School Religion class. I don't think it will have much appeal to kids older than middle-school, and I can definitely see girls latching onto the book more than boys (who, as middle-schoolers, are likely not yet at the age where being a nerd is cool). But I'm glad this is out there. It's a fresh expression and explanation of these sometimes tired stories (particularly the Old Testament, which can easily come off as violent and confusing). And, best of all, it doesn't seem to put anyone who thinks a little differently down. It promotes loving your neighbor in everyday life. That's probably its best accomplishment a book like this could hope for.
Stories were well told,
Drawings didn't hit the mark.