As a comic reader I am an avid fan of violence and dark undertones. While I don’t want to be classed as an ‘Edgelord’, I do have a fairly distinctive reading habit. Just over three years ago I met my partner and her child. Rebecca, now aged seven, is certainly not ready for me to share the joys of my Swamp Thing collection or subject her to the horrors of Something is Killing the Children. Which is why I’m here today with Rebecca, enjoying the latest of the adventures of Michael Recycle. So with our powers combined lets join Michael in meeting Borat the Cat.
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Ellie Patterson
Artist: Alexandra Colombo
The first thing to note is just how beautifully put together the book is. Art style, cover and even the binding itself. When it comes to children I always find they really want to read. In my late teens I spent time as a classroom assistant and the problems early readers were having was crystal clear – the books in the school libraries were outdated and a flat-out bore.
That said, during my time there I did find a dozen or so books I remembered fondly from being a child twenty or so years ago. Biff and Chip on the School Bus, The Magic Key and many other titles were a mainstay in many adult’s youth. But when you have children who want to read but only have boring books, you can often find yourself falling at the first hurdle. After all, if the book doesn’t make the child want to choose the book from the pile of others, it really doesn’t matter how good the story is, does it?
Well, I’m happy to report that Rebecca was curious about Michael Recycle from the get-go, primarily due to it featuring a Space Cat.
As we open the book we find a simple rhyming pattern which put a huge smile on Rebecca’s face. Normally when we read she struggles with a handful of words. The strong rhyming scheme really helped her tackle the reading with confidence. So far we have hit this story running. The characters were built up quickly and simply. With this being an early readers book I expected little depth and a limp message. I was very glad to be wrong. A few pages in I noticed an important hole in children’s knowledge which this book attempts to patch.
The terrors of global warming, environmental responsibility and dependency on fossil fuels are pressing issues for the this and future generations. This book is showing the young reader the actual effects of these issues, not the envisioned effects. Let me put this simply. If we tell a child we have fifty tigers, they will say ‘That’s a lot of tigers’. Fifty to them is a big number and a thousand is also just a big number. They often conclude there is no issue with there only being fifty or a thousand tigers as this is still a big number of tigers. However, as adults we know better about the alarming nature of their decline.
Borat the Space Cat helps to patch this hole by showing an actual diminished world. Borat hails from Splearth. A planet that has been ravaged by behaviours akin to our own. We see a world barren of trees with unsustainable living conditions. With this visual representation, the environmental message felt more tangible to a seven year old. And with space Vikings and vegans sending the message, the doom and gloom turned a little more joyful.
So what did seven year old Rebecca think? “I liked it, it was good.” Thanks Rebecca for that in-depth review which made my analysis so easy to complete. Heh. Anyway, I left it a few days and asked her a few questions about some of our world-saving behaviours. She remembered them all from the book. “Well, the space Viking said…” or “Michael Recycle doesn’t leave the tap on.”
She enjoyed it.
She remembered it.
I enjoyed reading this book with her.
It reinforced her positive environmental behaviour.
I mean, what more could you want from a children’s book?
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mike Chandler
Mike Tweets from @mike_moans