Everybody Loves Stuffed Animals

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This article is part of a series of spotlight articles on the winners of the Broken Frontier Awards 2005.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears is a shining example of what an All-Ages comic book should be – something that engages not only the young but the older as well.  While each will take away something different from the reading experience there is much that they will share. 

Mike Bullock’s writing powerfully reminds adults what it was like to be a child.  He taps into thoughts and experiences that are universal to childhood; like fear of the dark, the belief that there really are monsters (and they live in closets and under beds), and a good stuffed animal friend can chase them all away.  He does this by perfectly capturing the voice of a child.  In doing this he also connects to young readers who will see much of themselves in Joey and Courtney.  The ability to make both of these connections is a great and rare gift.

One also has to appreciate the direction Bullock chose to take with this series.  He does not require Joey or Courtney to sacrifice their childhood in order to make it through their adventure.  They change, and they learn some lessons about courage, love and family, but eventually it comes to affirm the power of a child’s imagination; Joey clings tightly to his and is praised for it.  In the same way, it was fascinating to see that Bullock made a point of showing how imagination could be a powerful force for good or for bad.  This is a lesson young readers can take as they grow and they will learn that it applies to many things, not just imagination.

It is also refreshing to see Bullock create adult characters that understand the children, who listen to them, and who still believe in magic themselves.  It reminds all of us adults that magic comes in many forms and it still exists, even in our real, 9 to 5 world – we just have to look for it and be open to it.

Of course, credit is due also to the wonderful artist who makes this story come to life – Jack Lawrence.  The cartoony style of the art and the bright colors are perfectly suited for kids who grow up watching cartoons on TV.  Lawrence understands that kids have different facial expressions than adults and he captures these wonderfully.  It seems, too often, many artists do not have a good grasp on the difference between kids and adults.  They treat children in their art as miniature adults and draw them accordingly.  Lawrence does not fall into this trap and creates a full range of child like emotions of the faces of those involved.

I have read a few all-ages comics but none of them have made me smile or touched my heart the way Lions, Tigers, and Bears did.  More to the point, this series is truly all-ages.  There is much here for adults and children to enjoy and they can enjoy it together.  This is the perfect story for adults and kids to read aloud to one another.  I guarantee each one will walk away with a different but precious treasure.

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