Don’t we all need a little more cheer in our lives? I sure do, and that’s why I love Art Baltazar’s work. Gillbert #4: The Island of Orange Turtles is the talented writer-artist’s latest Papercutz book. As usual, it’s impossible to read without grinning from ear to ear.
I’m happy that comics has bestselling authors like Dav Pilkey writing Dog Man and Cat Kid and Jeff Kinney churning out his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Their dominance of the bestseller lists is impressive and encouraging. Publisher’s Weekly’s John Maher provided a solid overview here earlier in the year.
But for whatever reason, those authors don’t really connect with me. But I am an older comic fan; they don’t need to. Or shouldn’t, really. I tend to gravitate to the work of writer-artists like Art Baltazar, Franco Aureliana and Frank Cammuso because of (a) their very public passion for comics and (2) kids dig their books. I love reading their books and gifting their books to young readers.
As a kid, the “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, or the Gill-Man, was one of those iconic images that we embraced whenever we wanted to scare the bejeezus out of ourselves. He might have been a half-step behind Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Werewolf, but he was still up there.
So, if Pilkey can adapt classics like Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights or Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls to YA bestsellers, it makes all the sense in the world that Baltazar can adapt old Universal monsters like The Creature from the Black Lagoon into an upbeat smile-fest of a story.
And that’s what this is. How fun is it to follow Gillbert and his friends on their adventures? Baltazar (as a creator and as a person) always embraces the urgency and importance of every childhood adventure. And it’s all wrapped up with colorful, outrageous artwork, solid storytelling, and crazy names.
Go, go Gillbert!
Gillbert #4: The Island of the Orange Turtles
By Art Baltazar
Published by Papercutz
Reading Age: 7 to 12
Grade Level: 4 to 6
Available from Amazon on 4/19/22.