By James Sturm
Any graphic novel that includes a “How to draw the characters” section earns brownie points in my books. Ogres Awake by James Sturm, just happens to have that and more. A whimsical flight of fancy, with young adults its target audience, this charming tale of cutting the Gordian Knot will definitely entertain and amuse. The tale of The Knight, his trusty steed Edward, and the impending doom of giant ogres in the meadow waking up and destroying the kingdom, will provide hours of entertainment (especially if you get into drawing the characters). It’s a light read, keenly suitable for young children, and imparts thematic trust into the fold.
Written in pure dialogue, Ogres Awake reads exceedingly well. The writing is terse, but definitely conveys the main characters’ attitudes. From the overzealous Knight, to the wise old King, character stereotyping makes it all too easy to immediately identify with the dramatis personae, and almost brings a suspension of disbelief in and of itself. Witty interactions (Edward is the only horse I have seen fetch), and a growing pacing towards the ogres awakening propel this graphic novel. It’s almost hard to believe that the pacing was so well done in so few pages (comparatively speaking within the genre). A perfect read for youngsters, Ogres Awake will be sure to delight and entertain. I even had a few giggles now and then. Some adults may find the writing too simple, but hey, they are not the target demographic here. The plot is linear and succinct, with a few twists and turns that keep the story flowing. It isn’t packaged as a “read in sections” style; rather, it is meant to be devoured in one sitting. The writing suits this style of plot and it’s a big, imagination stimulator.
The artwork, as mentioned previously, contains a “How to Draw” section, so the characters are clean, dynamic and simple. In fact, Sturm’s artwork is deceptively simple. Designing characters with young children’s drawing abilities in mind is no small feat – care has to be placed into the designs of the panels so that they are easy to read, reproducible for young readers and dynamic enough to let the inner child roam free giving the Knight (and Edward) new adventures. This entire package deal is a prize in itself, as it makes the graphic novel interactive with the young reader, a fact that it lost in so many children’s books today ignore. That being said, the artwork is what it is. Adults will probably find the artwork too simple but then they are also the ones whose imaginations can guide a child through one of the greatest joys of life – drawing and creating their own adventures.
All and all, for the young reader, say 4-9 years of age, Ogres Awake will inspire tales of the brave Knight for years to come. It is a simple story, set in simpler times, and has a fantastic moral at the end of the story, like all good children’s books have. The drawing exercises were a delight to see, and brings new creativity to the fold. Designed to be used as a springboard for the imagination, Ogres Awake will provide endless enjoyment to aspiring artists, those heroes who are knights in shining armor and protectors of the realms from grumpy ogres.