My students love graphic novels and the "how to draw" books are some of the most often checked out titles in our library. When I saw this book, I couldn't believe what an incredible idea it was. I'm so glad that Mark Crilley realized what a great combination this would be. He has taken the story of David and Becky and embedded lessons about perspective and shading and other artistic skills inside it. David wants to become better at drawing, so when he sees Becky sketching some trees in the park, he begs her for a lesson. Becky is an artist, and an adult (unlike David), but she agrees to give him a lesson rather than brushing him off. As the story progresses, so do the lessons and David's skills.
As each skill is introduced, David's drawing provides an example of how to apply the skill. Becky shows him how to use everything from shading to negative space in his art, and asks him to practice each new skill on his own. By the end of the story, readers have gone through nine different lessons with David and can put the instructions into use for themselves. But, along with the lessons, readers will also enjoy the story. David is amusing with his desire to be an even better artist than Ryan Pasternak, who "can draw a Lamborghini without looking at anything." He is a little overenthusiastic and does things like follow Becky home from the grocery store or knock on her door early in the morning before she's even had her coffee. The expressions Becky has when David does something to annoy her are very funny. Sometimes her eyes get very large and her pupils look like tiny pinpricks. Her eyebrows may arch with confusion or scrunch together tightly. Every now and then she grits her teeth and you can see steam rising from her head. Without any instructions given on drawing expressions, the book gives a wide variety of examples through the various scenes with the characters.
Crilley does a wonderful job of making the characters believable. David has all the absolute opinions of someone who has not really thought things through. He says things like it's cheating to look at something while you draw it, and that "If you can draw it from memory, then you're a real artist." Becky has her moments of irritation with him, but she also has the desire to share the art that she is passionate about. She tells him that "it is not cool" that he followed her home, but she also gives him genuine praise when he succeeds at a new technique. And the way in which the story comes full circle gives a great sense of completion to the whole book.
I can imagine an art teacher using this to introduce the various techniques to students, or children reading it and practicing on their own. I think I could even draw something recognizable if I follow the directions (which would really be something, since art is not a strong point for me). If you know a young person who enjoys art or wants to be better at drawing, this would make a great gift.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
* Update - 08/01/2016 We have added this title to the Fairview Library.