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Review by Kerry Garvin


Aaron Renier
Aaron Renier

Top Shelf Productions
Softcover Original
Publish Date
August 2005
Cover Price
Having seen the poster that Aaron Renier created for the 2004 MoCCA Art Festival, I knew Spiral-Bound was going to be interesting. The poster depicts Ana, a rabbit, jetting through a library from a secret passageway behind a bookshelf, ala Scooby Doo. The poster couldn’t be a more perfect look at what the reader is about to discover when picking up his new book. It is detailed, fun, and adventure-filled.

In Spiral-Bound, a group of kids (elephant Turnip, bird Emily, and dog Stucky, among others) are immersed in various summer activities. Some go to the whale Ms. Scrimshaw’s art camp, while others are working for the town’s underground newspaper. Everyone is interested in the town’s pond monster. Some think it is legend, others know it is real and eating residents. When Ms. Scrimshaw wants to host an art exhibit in the park by the pond, including some work that is to go in the pond monster’s territory, an uproar ensues that involves all the children.

Right away I was sucked in Spiral-Bound’s premise. I enjoyed the characters and the way they interact. Renier keeps the dialog fresh. This makes it evident that the animals are young teens enjoying their summer away from school. The way each character is written makes it easy to get to know them. From the first page you feel Turnip’s anxiety and self-consciousness at his feelings for classmate Viola. This along with the mysterious plot-points kept me interested from the get-go.

The story itself is easy to fall into at first. If there is one bad thing about the story is that it wraps up so quickly at the end. Renier spends 100 pages exploring the kids and their interests, the town, and the legend of the pond monster, but something still feels like it’s missing just before the climax. This minor point does not detract form the ending, however.

Spiral-BoundGrowing up, I supremely enjoyed the books and illustrated world of Richard Scary. Renier’s illustrations and landscapes he has created with Turnip and his friends bring me right back to those days when my mom would read to me. The world Renier has drawn is lush and positively filled with creatures and structures and many details that other artists sometime leave out. I appreciate even the littered streets and cluttered homes here. The congested panels add to the spirit of Renier’s world. You see the chaos that some of the resident’s feel just by looking at their surroundings and even get sucked into the fast-paced and adventurous world that the children inhabit.

The style of the book and cover is something that must be mentioned as well. The cover is made to look like the spiral-bound notebooks of my school days. It’s weathered and beat up. The cover of the notebook has been partially erased to make room for an elaborate drawing of the pond creature. Everything from the bar code in the lower right-hand corner to the price-tag and even way Top Shelf’s name and the page count is displayed mirrors that of an old wide-rule notebook. I love how the book is transformed into the actual notebook that Ana uses to record the top-secret summer. This tactic immerses the reader into the book more fully.

Bonus Features
The only extra here, a map of the Scoop’s tunnel system, can be found on the last page of the book. One can’t expect extras on a graphic novel, so it’s appreciated when the reader is treated to even one extra page of the author’s world.
Final Words

Spiral-Bound is an extremely enjoyable summer adventure suitable for adults and kids alike. I felt as though I was whisked back to my childhood, absorbing stories about crazy human-like animals and wishing my adventures were as cool. With positive reviews from Craig Thompson, Dav Pilkey, and Lemony Snicket on the back-cover, apparently I’m not the only one who feels compelled by Renier’s creation.

Highly Recommended

Kerry Garvin (email) is a total nerd. She once made a robot out of tin foil for a boy she loved, but was too shy to deliver it. Kerry can also be found rambling at The Comic Queen and A View From the Ham.
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