It is difficult to strike a balance between being “new” and chucking everything out the window. This is especially difficult when attempting to do an adventure tale that stars young girls. Most writers feel that they either have to go the route of having a “never cared about being a girl anyway” character who goes out to kick ass and take names, or have the character be a princess-type who is out on a reluctant adventure and really would rather be at home brushing her hair and looking in a mirror (but who, of course, learns a valuable lesson about being in the wild and how there is more to life than hairbrushes and mirrors). Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado takes a third alternative an places complex characters in challenging situations and then lets their individual strengths carry the day.
Claudette wants nothing more than to be an adventurer. She has grown up hearing the stories of her father, the town blacksmith, and his exploits as a dragon-slayer. He does little to discourage her, despite the fact that he lost both legs and one arm in his last adventure. He does, however, have high hopes for Claudette’s brother, Gaston. He hopes Gaston will one day take over the family sword-making business, despite Gaston’s desires to be a pastry chef.
Claudette’s best friend, Marie, is an aspiring princess who loves hearing about Claudette’s big plans and engaging in tests to determine her own princess skills. As unlikely a pair as they make, Claudette and Marie are fierce friends, defending each other from those who would question their hopes and dreams.
When rumors of a fierce giant being spotted outside the city spread, Claudette knows that this is her chance to have the adventure she has always dreamed of. Through a bit of trickery, she convinces Gaston and Marie to join her. Together they out think, outwit, and out fight their way across the terrifying lands in search of the giant.
Giants Beware is an adventure book that is perfect for young readers (ages 8 – 12). The humor, the story, and the art are appealing and offer an edge of danger and excitement without going so far as to be actually scary. the payoff to the adventure may seem a bit childish to an older reader, but to a young adventurer it is perfect.
Aguirre keeps the story moving along with quick action scenes and witty dialogue. He never talks down to the reader by making the characters behave in a childish or incompetent manner. Each character in turn does her or his fair share of rescuing and being rescued and each discovers a level of confidence they never had before. These are not caricatures or heroes and princesses. These are characters that the reader becomes attached to and cheers for.
Rafael Rosado’s art is cartoony and engaging. His characters have a bit of an animated feel to them and it would be easy to imagine them coming to life on the screen. the facial expressions and body language of each character is unique, meaning that no matter what the circumstance it is always clear who is speaking and what they are feeling.
Many people have likened Giants Beware! to Jeff Smith’s Bone. While the story is not nearly as mature and complex, the world in which these characters exist feels like it was taken straight from Thorn’s Valley. the settings of the book take on a life of their own. The cities are a bustling jumble of people, while the rivers and forests and mountains each have their own personalities. It is rare that so much attention is paid to the backgrounds and setting of a book. However, when done, it makes the book feel even more alive. Giants Beware! is full of life!
Giants Beware! is the perfect book to bridge the gap from light and fun young readers books to the more mature and complex adventures of Bone. Claudette and her friends are characters rich with potential who could easily entertain with many more adventures. I am looking forward to having this book in the school library and seeing the kids on the playground running around yelling, “Giants Beware!”
Giants Beware! will be released in April from First Second.