Beginning Pearls

illus. by author. 224p. (Amp! Comics for Kids). Andrews McMeel. 2013. pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4494-2303-2. LC 2012954161.
Gr 3–6—While Pastis's somewhat controversial Pearls Before Swine has been in syndication since 2000, this is the first time a collection has been curated specifically for a younger audience. Beginning Pearls organizes the strips by character, with each section featuring Rat, Pig, Goat, Zebra, and the Crocs, respectively. The art is fairly simple-the figures have stick arms and legs, and the action is minimal, often taking place behind a table, desk, or brick wall. Background details are spare, if they exist at all. Because of the nature of comic strips, this minimalism doesn't detract from the overall effect and may even enhance it. Color has been added to the daily strips, a nice bonus for those who may have seen the material before. As for the content, Pastis cites a number of influences on his strip-including Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, and the Far Side-and Pearls's humor effectively channels them while still being unique. Fans of the aforementioned titles won't be disappointed. The only drawback is that the nine-by-six inch book size is not ideal for comic strips. The last (usually third) panel of the strip is placed below the first two on the page and enlarged to reduce the white space around it. It's not only visually awkward, but it also has an unintended consequence of overemphasizing the punch line, which is, more often than not, funny because of its understatement. Sunday strips, marked by a solid color background over two pages, fare much better.—J. M. Poole, Webster Public Library, NY

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