Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird

Tony Millionaire, Fantagraphics, $19.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-56097-917-3
Millionaire's backyard golem returns in this winning follow-up to 2006's Billy Hazelnuts. With a piecrust body, hazelnut eyes, and titanic strength, the title character struggles with the vicissitudes of human—and animal—society. This all-ages-friendly tale opens with a comical but sincere note of existential angst, but Billy ultimately discovers his orientation in the world through his relationships with others. Rescuing the family cat from an attacking owl, Billy finds he has caused the abandonment of a newly hatched chick. This foundling attempts to hungrily devour Billy even as he quests forth to find the "crazy bird" 's mother. The book is drawn in a loosened version of Millionaire's ornate pen and ink style, evoking the vital, calligraphed fantasies of turn-of-the-20th-century cartoonists and children's book illustrators. The loose hatching matches the book's propulsive narrative pace, but pauses at intervals for a potent accumulation of detail or an expressive character moment. The tale itself frequently veers toward the lunatic, but if it skirts the surreal it does so precisely by taking the kinds of unfettered narrative turns that characterize the best children's literature. And like those books, Millionaire's creates a safe space for exploration that remains grounded throughout in a humane sensibility that quietly makes itself known by showing, not telling. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/14/2010
Release date: 07/01/2010
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