I got to take my 10 year old neighbor at Bridge Meadows, Noah Tanatchangsang, to the park a few days ago. He ran around for a while, created attack and doomsday games with the playground equipment, filmed squirrels on my cell phone, and then told me how the evil squirrels would get into my popcorn when I watched the film. I asked him if he wanted to read a book with me.
I pulled Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption by Jose Domingo out of my bag and in the late afternoon light, under a grove of evergreens, we were transported into the world of two bored kids.
They’d already been everywhere in the neighborhood: the crooked custodian’s forest, the haunted orphanage, the ruined asylum, the tunnel of whispers, even the old graveyard. Jane, much to Pablo’s dismay, decides they should explore “that ruined creepy house on the top of the hill, the one filled with monsters and where the radioactive meteorite crashed.”
Her mom admonishes her not to die before dinner time.
A clever quirky storyline is just the beginning of the fun of this book. Pablo and Jane meet a rat named Dr Jules who has built a fantastic hot air contraption. Dr. Jules has a nemesis, the one-eyed evil cat, Dr. Felinibus, who causes the hot air contraption to go into a sort of radioactive warp zone and crash through to the monster dimension.
In this parallel dimension, cities are inhabited by their ghosts, myths and monsters. In order to help rebuild the contraption, you have to find parts to it that Dr. Felinibus has hidden in each city. Pablo, Jane and Dr. Jules race thorough Ageless, Athens, Macabre Mararkech, Nocturnal Norway, and, to Noah’s delight , Treacherous Thailand (he’s of Thai heritage.)
I love that Jane is the bravest character in the bunch, and also quite good at outsmarting Dr. Felinibus.
Each spread challenges readers to more and more difficult searches. Noah and I didn’t get through all them in one sitting, although he says he’s a Where’s Waldo Wizard. We’ll be returning to this book not only for the search challenge, but for the discussion it sparked on the myths and monsters of different cultures. It has a complex vocabulary that’s already given Noah a few new words for his own monster stories.
After you find all the search items and reach the amazing conclusion (one that promises sequels), you get another list compiled by Dr. Jules, where you’re challenged to find specific monsters.
Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption was just published this month (October 2015) by Flying Eye Books. I think it’s is a great book for the Halloween season. Although it cost more than candy, for that special monster and comic loving child, this makes a great gift. Noah thought it might be nice to get a flashlight, too, so he could stay up and explore the monster dimension after bedtime.
The book has a sturdy binding with a puffy cover, so it’ll hold up well to visits from lots of children of all ages.
Jose Domingo has a dense, unique and colorful style that’s visually engrossing. My pictures and scans here do the work no justice. You have to see them live.
This book got a starred review at Publishers Weekly, which you can read here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-909263-36-9
Domingo is a Spanish comic artist whose drawing obsession led him to work with the animation industry before publishing his first full length comic. Nobrow published his comic Adventures of a Japanese Business Man.
I hope you get a chance to enjoy this book. But if you run into zombies in the bone-chilling bayou, we suggest you don’t ask the Norwegian troll for help.