by Laurent Richard & Nicolas Ryser, illustrator
translated by Edward Gauvin
Graphic Universe 1/14/2014
Age 7 to 11 64 pages
“Tao is studying martial arts at the famous Master Snow’s school. But no matter how hard he concentrates on his lessons, mischief gets in the way! Tai plays pranks and jokes around with his friends Ray, Lee, and Kat. He also struggles to get to school on time, learn new moves, and—most importantly—avoid doing his chores.”
“Ohboyohboy . . . this is gonna be tight. If I’m late, I’m gonna get chewed out! Hurry, hurry, hurry . . . home stretch . . .”
Tao attends Master Snow’s martial arts school along with three friends, Ray, Lee, and his “not-girlfriend” Kat. Try as he might, Tao is late for school, and when there, has a hard time following Master Snow’s teachings. Each graphic novel page begins with a title, which is more like an oriental proverb. The second page is title “Showing off Can Spoil Dessert.” Tao is home and decides to practice annihilating blocks with a karate chop. He stacks three sets of two blocks to his right, left, and directly in front. Quickly, Tao chops with great force. “Bash! Bash! Bash!” Tao disintegrates every block, but his papa is unhappy with his son’s accomplishment—Tao used graham crackers as his cement blocks.
Kids, especially boys, will love Tao and his goofy ways. Tao tries but what he touches never goes right for him. I think reluctant readers will also like Tao. Rather than a 64-page story, there are 64 stories, one per page. Needing to stop is easy letting the reader–reluctant reader–go at their own pace, without becoming overwhelmed, or stressed. Remembering what happened is not necessary. If you don’t like the page where Tao is late for school, turn the page and a new situation will present itself. The stories have recurring characters that hang out with Tao, teach him, or guide him. So there is consistency in the Tai series.
The graphic novel is easy to following. The illustrations are bright and white lines mark each scene by placing them in boxes to divide the action. I found it was like reading a paragraph per block then moving on to the right for the next paragraph—only the blocks contained pictures not words. Some blocks do have a voice bubble with words, but those mostly set up or complete the joke on each page. Tao is completely for laughs and he succeeds. Needing help to put on his fencing outfit, not-my-girlfriend Kat helps and ties Tao up in bows—pretty pink bows—but Tao has no idea this is why his opponent is laughing.
A few pages I thought were especially good. Those included:
He Who Spies Gets a Black Eye
He Who Cannot Fly Must Avoid Falling
He Who Climbs Too Fast Falls Flat on His Face
The last involves Master Smith. Any page involving the Master is hilarious as he usually shows that age means nothing while performing some unusual human feat. After playing out all of the sage advice, the author takes readers “behind the scenes.” Here the author gives a short lesson on how Tao comes to life. The lesson includes writing voice bubbles, sketching characters and scenes, and colorizing the final images followed by black inking highlights so they stand out from the scene. The very last page lists the currently available editions of Tao. The color is light, almost like a transfer, which is what I thought it was. But, alas, it is not a transfer, so put those t-shirts away. Maybe next time.
Tao is a new graphic novel from Graphic Universe and rivals those published by Papercutz, the reigning king of graphic novels for kids. Tao is understandable and involves many situations most kids will face at some point in their life, karate not needed.
TAO THE LITTLE SAMURAI #1: PRANKS AND ATTACKS! Text copyright © 2011 by Laurent Richard. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Nicolas Ryser. Translation copyright © 2014 by Edward Gauvin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Graphic Universe, Minneapolis, MN.
Learn more about the Tao the Little Samurai series HERE
Meet the illustrator, Nicolas Ryser, at his website:
Graphic Universe is an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group
Also by Laurent Richard & Nicolas Ryser
Also by Edward Gauvin
Reviewed (#30) HERE.