February 23, 2015

Cybils Finalist Review: THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER! by Jimmy Gownley

Summary: This book has got a great title. Rest assured the premise lives up to the promise. This was one of my personal favorite titles from this year's excellent crop of Cybils graphic novel finalists. The autobiographical story of how the author decided to become a cartoonist and start drawing comics, The Dumbest Idea Ever! is also one of the funniest books ever--Jimmy is a relatable narrator who endures the usual bumbling toward adolescence that anyone who has ever been a tween will recognize.

Peaks: Creative kids and teens in particular will really relate to Jimmy's story. For the sake of those readers, not to mention the younger me, I loved the final message about not giving up, and being humble enough to know where you still need to learn and to ask for help when you need it. But this is obviously not just a story with a moral message—it's also the story of a regular kid who comes up against obstacles (the normal ones like sports and girlfriends, as well as a few curve balls) and muddles through. He battles his own ego (and its inverse, the nasty voice that tells you you aren't good enough).

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I was impressed by the accurate portrayal of the teen characters in all their awkward, poor-impulse-control glory, the highs and lows of teen life in a small town. Also, the role of the parents and other adults in the story is not minimized, but the focus remains on Jimmy and his quest. And, again, there's a great underlying theme/message of persistence despite obstacles in order to achieve your dream. The visual style is simple and traditional, easy to read as well as very, very funny.

Valleys: There were a few moments here and there when the story's timeline jumped and I was momentarily confused, but that was my only quibble. An all-around excellent title.

Conclusion: This book is so hilarious and endearing and inspiring, too. I laughed out loud many, many times. Really. I keep trying to think of people I can shove this onto, besides my 10-year-old nephew, who is definitely getting a birthday copy. (Good thing he doesn't read this blog!)  If you like graphic novel memoirs, especially ones like Smile by Raina Telgemaier or El Deafo by Cece Bell (this year's Cybils winner), read it.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library. You can find THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER! by Jimmy Gownley at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

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