Giants Beware! is another home run for First Second. It's got lively full-color art, an adventurous plot, and a dash of humor that all add up to a supremely entertaining read for the middle grade set.
Claudette has grown up hearing stories about her father, who lost his legs fighting a fearsome dragon (and survived). She's also heard stories about how a threatening giant was chased from her town, and she's very disturbed to learn that no one bothered to kill it - they just let it get away! Claudette decides to fix this mistake. She tricks her younger brother Gaston and her best friend Marie into pursuing the giant from the story, and the three encounter all sorts of danger and cause all sorts of mayhem on their adventure.
I liked how Aguirre played with gender roles. Gaston is your typical scaredy-cat (and also an accomplished pastry chef) while Claudette is the brave one, but neither character is a stereotype. Marie aspires to be a princess when she grows up, and Claudette respects her for it ("Wanting to be a princess is a weird career choice, but if anyone's smart enough to pull it off, it's you"). But that doesn't make Marie a standard fairy tale princess. In fact, each of the supporting characters is given time to shine, since their unique talents help get them out of scrapes. And by the end of the story, all three kids have learned how to be braver, or less impulsive, or more honest. And their friendship has grown and matured, too.
Giants Beware is part of a growing trend of full-color adventure graphic novels, and I'm glad for it. It stands up well with Zita the Spacegirl, Bone, Earthling, Jellaby and the like. It's its own unique story, too - the French feel makes it stand apart, and Claudette's energy and bloodthirstiness aren't matched by any other heroine I've read (that's a good thing).
The art is so good, too. It's full of terrific facial expressions that add character and make you laugh out loud. Each character is distinctive, even the ancillary ones. And it's in full color, making the entire thing beautiful and just wonderful to pore over again and again. There's no cliffhanger, but at least one of the characters hints at further adventures to come, meaning we can hopefully expect a sequel sometime soon.
There were a couple of things that struck me as odd. There were quite a few typos that nagged at me after a while. Unfortunately, these stand out more in a graphic novel than they do in a regular novel, there being fewer words to work with. And Gaston may be a poor choice of name for kids who are probably only familiar with it from Beauty and the Beast (although it is amusing to juxtapose the two characters).
But I'm nitpicking. This is such a fun read, and a great example of what the format can do. Highly recommended.
Book borrowed from the library.