By James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost
Any graphic novel that includes a “How to draw the characters” section earns brownie points in my books. Hocus Focus by James Sturm and Co,. just happens to have that, as did Sturm’s Ogres Awake (coincidentally starring the same characters). A whimsical flight of fancy, with young adults its targeted demographic, we once again pick up on the further adventures of the Knight and his trusty, fetching steed, Edward in the Knight’s quest to become the greatest wizard ever. Fun, fun and more fun awaits the reader in this graphic novel, and youngsters will find giggles galore there. It’s truly a delightful read that teaches a very important moral lesson. Hocus Focus is by far the pinnacle so far produced by Sturm, Arnold, and Frederick-Frost. Perhaps adding a few more cooks spice up the dish.
Once again, Sturm and Co. have written a very tight dialogue driven ship. The action starts almost immediately and doesn’t stop until the final punchline. Terse and to the point, the younger reader won’t have an iota of a problem following the linear but twisting plot. Dialogue and action share an equal proportion throughout the book. The story is delightful and airy, full of magic (well one spell with disastrous results), and a mythic feel, as it largely weaves elements of “The Wizard’s Apprentice.” – one may remember Disney’s Mickey Mouse adaption in Fantasia. This being said, of course, says that there is a positive moral message. Patience pays off; the swing ending at the end is a good laugh. We are introduced to the aged Court Wizard who fulfils his role as the mentor teaching a student a lesson.
To reiterate my comments on Ogres Awake: 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, expanded now to underwater adventures and space fare (even Edward has a space helmet to draw!). All the good fun from this encourages interactive reading in young adults. Kudos for Sturm and Co. for adding this element once again in Hocus Focus, as Sturm did in the former graphic novel – it’s a good technique and encourages the arts in youngsters. It’s a hands down, win-win situation here.
The assimilation of story and art is easy to do; doing it well is another matter altogether. Sturm, Arnold, and Frederick-Frost do it right. Together, the art and dialogue cannot be separated – not without compromising the integrity of the story. Together they tie everything together. They define the Knight (not so much Edward) and the elderly, accomplished Wizard
Introducing your child to the wonders of art is a prize worth taking home, and Hocus Focus provides that outlet. Introducing them to graphic novels and the stories they tell excites both visual and language skills: Hocus Focus performs this well. For any child the adventures of ‘The Knight’ and Edward will become part of treasured memories, and a wellspring of ideas from which to draw (no pun intended) and draw. Overall I would highly recommend Hocus Focus to any young reader whose imagination is flaring.