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Ford, Christopher. Stickman Odyssey: An Epic Doodle; written and illus. by Christopher Ford. Philomel, 2011. 200p. ISBN 978-0-399-25426-0 $12.99 R Gr. 5-9.

In this quirky graphic novel that blends Homeric epic and D&D-style adventures, Zozimos the stickman (he's literally a stick figure) has gotten gotten through life with a minimum of effort, a surplus of confidence, and a gift for talking his way out of trouble. He hates admitting he needs help, even when women, hermits, and the golems who should be his enemies are obviously saving him left and right. He has a worthy quest to regain control of his homeland of Sticatha (a neat play on Ithaca), taken by his evil stepmother, but his sword-fighting, plan-making, and self-preservation skills are all lacking. This is no problem when he is surrounded by a loyal group who are all able to see beyond his obvious faults to the well-intentioned nascent hero underneath. The black-and-white illustrations are occasionally simple to the point of hilarity, as when an injured leg on a stickman is conveyed by merely making the line wiggly. There is subtlety and depth here, however, and the contrast between the intentionally plain characters and their seemingly larger-than-life (but ultimately fairly universal) quests to find family, home, freedom, and a sense of self makes the final product both the promised Greek epic tale and an examination of the ways in which modern humans are isolated and lost. It may seem a lot to read into some stick figures, sea monsters, and quite a bit of bodily-function humor, but Ford balances allegory and madcap quest so perfectly that the book inspires reflection even while it is clearly a quick-reading, ridiculous, often gross adventure. Although older Pilkey fans are an obvious match, readers of Greek myths will likely appreciate the representation of characters and stories that appear in this novel. The frontispiece provides a map of Z's journey. [End Page 518]



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