________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 22. . . .February 11, 2011.


Lila & Ecco’s Do-It-Yourself Comics Club.

Willow Dawson.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2010.
112 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55453-439-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55453-438-8 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Comic books, strips, etc-Technique-Juvenile literature.
Comic books, strips, etc-Authorship-Juvenile literature.
Bookbinding-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Alison Mews.




I guess it’s time to edit.

Yep. And these are gonna be our best friends. Use the dictionary for spelling. We also have to check for grammar and punctuation.


Try not to use the same words everywhere or too many overused, plain words like “happy,” “nice” or “funny.” Find different, more descriptive ones in the thesaurus.

I’ve tried that and gotten bad marks when the other ones don’t work as well.

You have to look up the new word in both the dictionary and thesaurus to make sure it’s right. Try to find them used in sentences. And you might wanna vary your sentences so they don’t sound too much the same.

But I want him to speak kinda like a robot.

Even-robots-speak-in-different-sentence-lengths. From-short. To-long-and complic-ated-ones. Here. The-book-talks-about-adding-color-to-dialogue. (Dialogue in speech balloons.)

Framed as a story about two friends discovering how to write their own comic books, this graphic novel provides step-by-step instructions on the whole process from initial inspiration to finished product. Budding comic book creators will find this blended manual/novel an attractive approach as it is easy to follow and has an interesting backstory and running examples of the two friends’ developing stories.

     The graphic novel format is an entirely appropriate choice to model comic creation. Each aspect discussed has a corresponding example in the graphic novel. For instance, when describing the different types of panels and what they indicate to the reader, the panels are drawn as described - broken, closed, open, etc. The same is true of inking techniques like stipling, hatching and cross-hatching or the various types of speech balloons. The black-and-white panels are drawn with bold, sure strokes with varying perspective and size. While professional and well-executed, Dawson’s art is childlike and looks deceptively simple so that readers will feel they can easily replicate comic book panels.

     There is a lot of emphasis on the careful planning and thought involved in designing a story that lends itself to the combination of dialogue and sequential art and in revising both the dialogue and the art. Because the character Lila has decided to write a nonfiction comic and Ecco a fictional one, both genres are included in each aspect of the process. The two friends try different approaches to page design methods, such as lettering the speech balloons, and they provide feedback for each other, feedback which sometimes involves reworking the approach. This mirrors the creative process and stresses the importance of critically evaluating the draft after each step.

     As it is not a traditional informational book, there are no chapters or index for quick reference to the specific steps to creating a comic book. It is designed to be read sequentially, and the story is secondary to the information. While this may be off-putting for some, as a whole it works quite well, especially for those who are not drawn to nonfiction books.

     Willow Dawson, in addition to publishing her own graphic novels, teaches comic workshops for young people. She addresses the concerns that children typically encounter and gives children the freedom to make and correct mistakes as they make their own masterpieces.


Alison Mews is a retired librarian who lives in St. John’s, NL.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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