Meet Gustav, a pig with a big imagination, and Henri Normal, his best friend who happens to be a dog (but like in a Goofy kind of way, as opposed to a Pluto.) The best friends enjoy spending time together, doing the usual things Australian kids do, including an old favorite of mine, playing badminton. When Gustav accidentally sends the shuttlecock flying into space one day, he and Henri not only have to build a rocket ship to retrieve it but also figure out a way to get it back from the person who’s claimed it as their own.
That’s the first story in this cute graphic novel. The second revolves around Gustav getting Henri into trouble by losing her library book. Cassandra the Librarian immediately revokes Henri’s library card, leading to our intrepid friends building a time machine to preempt such a terrible sentence. As with all time-travel tales, things do not go as planned.
In the final story here, Gustav initiates Henri into the mysteries of Pig Day, which is sort of the opposite of Christmas. But when the cake Gustav has so diligently baked goes missing, he’ll have to figure out which of their guests might have decided to renounce the spirit of Pig Day and claim the cake entirely for themself.
This is a sweetly silly graphic novel that hits that balancing point between a traditionally paneled comic book and the type of illustrated story recently popularized by middle grade books like Jeff Kenney’s Diary Of A Wimpy Kid series. My eldest adores that latter, and while the content of this book might skew towards a slightly younger demographic than his (my baby’s in middle school right now, can you believe it?), it’s a smart choice for the series authors, who know how to blend whimsical with earnest in their depiction of our title pair’s adventures. In addition to the three stories here are fun little activities that can be interpreted as either straightforward things to do or merely jokes to laugh at, such as Gustav’s take on Victory Nachos, with his marginalia not quite obscuring the actually delicious-sounding recipe below it.
There’s a surprisingly rewarding amount of content for adults, too, with sly little asides that smart kids of all ages will likely find humorous. I was also a fan of the cyanotype color palette used on the interior art, with the cover’s bright red background adding a really nice flavor to the book’s overall design.
This was the fun start to a series that I’m definitely interested in reading more of and sharing with my kids.
Gustav & Henri Vol 1: Space Time Cake by Andy Matthews & Peader Thomas was published yesterday September 6 2022 by Red Comet Press and is available from all good booksellers, including