Panel to Panel
By Nathan Patton
Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the World
Author: James Kochalka
Publisher: Top Shelf
No Mental Nutrition
Kochalka’s latest lacks plot and good dialogue
Described as an all-ages graphic novel, “Johnny Boo” trades the intelligence and heart of James Kochalka’s earlier works for a surface-level tale about two ghosts on an adventure. There’s not much of a story here and there’s barely a plot. The dialogue is so flat that it seems like he made it up as he went along. Kochalka is a brilliant cartoonist and has delivered fantastic all-ages material before, (“Peanut Butter and Jeremy’s Best Book Ever,” “Squirrely Gray”) which is what makes this book such a huge disappointment.
Johnny Boo is a ghost that has “boo power” which means he can yell “boo” really loudly and it disorients others. His sidekick, Squiggle, has, you guessed it, “squiggle power” which makes him go really fast in circular patterns. They spend way too much time explaining and demonstrating these powers before they finally set out on their mission to find some ice cream. But they have to be careful how loud they say “ice cream” because there’s an ice cream monster lurking at every corner.
The plot is fine as a beginning, but Kochalka fails at executing the story in an intelligent, “all ages” way. He also fails at making his characters interesting or engaging. This might have been passable 50 years ago, but children today seem to demand a bit more sophistication in movies, TV and books. And the book gets stale after a while with the same three characters and no change of location from the unassuming, simplistic background.
As a children’s book the “Johnny Boo” has pretty pictures but not much else. As a graphic novel, it’s a redundant tale with great packing and design that ultimately doesn’t deliver enough substance for the price. It’s a bright looking, thin hardcover, but almost nothing happens inside the book that couldn’t have been inferred by looking at the front and back covers.
A lot of Kochalka’s work is deceptively simple, but this is so simplistic that it leaves you almost completely unsatisfied. And while I can’t say for certain that children won’t enjoy this book, I can say that it offers them no more mental nutrition than an ice cream cone.