Gabby and Gator
With a minimum of text, the author spins a Louisiana alligator tale in graphic novel form. His illustrations go modern as he passes over an incandescent light bulb. Burks doesn’t even use a fluorescent bulb. When Princess Gabby has a brilliant idea, nothing but the most up-to-date “green” spiral light bulb will illustrate her sudden inspiration in this day of environmental awareness.
A glance at her room and the reader becomes aware of how committed this girl is to improving the environment. She writes seven goals for the day. Her most important goal is last: Find someone who will accept me for who I am. Every reader can identify with that struggle.
Borrowing from comic book creators, the author depends on onomatpoeia as a device. When Princess Gabby practices her tuba, it goes, “Burp! Burp!” and the gator adds, “Ching! Ching!” Princess Gabby writes her Today’s Goals with “scratch, scribble, scrabble.” When Gabby and Gator become friends she invites him home with her for a veggie shake. Gator sees the bathroom that triggers a flashback to his lonely childhood. A memory creates a phobia as he faintly remembers being flushed down the commode. Gator helps Gabby collect recyclables after a fun pillow fight, but the best advantage of having a friend gator is that he protects her from the bully.
Floyd Fiddleman, the animal control officer, claims to know another way to catch a gator. He dashes around in his Animal Control golf cart and practices using his taser gun. One thing he knows is that alligators only think about one thing: food.
Gabby outwits Floyd and figures out how to rescue Gator, but as they race away to the river, expecting sure escape, she wonders about a strange possibility: Has his traumatic childhood caused this alligator to be afraid of the water?
James Burks offers a book for all ages with a breezy style of writing, especially for elementary-school-age readers who will gain confidence with this easy to digest YA novel of 192 pages. Even the youngest reader can almost “read” the pictures animator Burks provides. As a graphic novel the overdone plot is raised to a new level with these clever illustrations and a unique text that leads to a happily-ever-after ending.
Exemplifying the humor exhibited throughout the book, Gabby ends the story with, “We really need to work on your eating. Have you ever tried tofu?”