Friday, June 18, 2010

Making (Fun) Choices

Meanwhile by Jason Shiga is a graphic novel version of a choose-your-own-adventure. It's about making choices and discovering the consequences of those choices, presented in a fun, entertaining way. There’s also a memory element involved because you want to avoid taking a path that leads you back to the same destination (though that seems inevitable, at least until you get the hang of it). As you go through the book, you also gain an appreciation of imagination—mostly Shiga’s, but also of what the human imagination is capable of—between Professor K’s inventions and the offhand explanation of physics, and the idea that our choices lead us to unexpected places, both physically and mentally. And it's all couched in a kind of Three Stooges slapstick comedy framework. As Shiga connects various plot paths to the multi-colored tubes, he leads us through the tabbed pages in unorthodox ways, on a journey of possibilities—3,856 possibilities, to be exact.

This is the ideal book for a long car trip or a rainy summer afternoon, when a child can plunge into Meanwhile with complete abandon, and no sense of time passing. The pages require that you engage your brain fully, to pick up on visual cues, so that you remember which tube(s) you’ve already followed and which new tube(s) may yield a different outcome. Then follow it with Adventures in Cartooning to get some idea of the structural planning and visual pacing required to complete a project like Meanwhile. Your child will be lost in it for hours and will want to share it with friends. No Kindle or iPad can create this kind of experience.

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