Based on the animated television series created by Ben Bocquelet, The Amazing World of Gumball: Fairy Tale Trouble is written by Megan Brennan and illustrated by Katy Farina. This story follows the Watterson family as they enjoy a day at the Renaissance Faire being held at the school grounds of Elmore Jr. High. The day goes awry when the town folk find themselves in an alternate, middle ages equivalent of Elmore, and the kids must go a quest to find three magical items, so they can return to modern-day Elmore.
There are a number of reasons to recommend this graphic novel to kids, especially those who enjoy the animated series on Cartoon Network. The first being the diversity of characters. Brennan and Farina bring to life a fast-paced story that is intelligent and humorous. I completed cursory research on the characters, because I picked up on the familial mix of cats, rabbits, and a goldfish. Each character embodies a baseline characteristic, for instance the mom (Nicole) is the disciplinarian and the father (Richard) is a foodie, yet they are then developed into likable individuals that give this story its strength. Gumball’s fantastical daydreams as hero are particularly funny and reminiscent of childhood flights of fantasy that probably resonate with all of us.
Brennan further develops and explores the characters by giving them fun and engaging dialogue. As the realist of the group, Nicole’s quips are based in fact, while Richard is a big kid at heart, so he likes the basics such as food and the faire’s pageantry appeals to him. Gumball, the central character and wannabe hero, finds himself a jester in a medieval makeover. He has to come to terms with and overcome his big jester hat, a situation that his siblings Darwin (a wizard) and Anais (a knight) oscillate between making fun of him and supporting him with words of encouragement. It’s all done with a light touch, though, and makes a bit of fun of itself.
The illustration of The Amazing World of Gumball: Fairy Tale Trouble matches well with its target audience. Farina keeps the page presentation straightforward, and it is easy to read and follow from one panel to the next. The characters are consistently drawn and at no time was I lost. The pairing of Brennan and Farina works well in this graphic novel; the pacing of the story is matched by the motion conveyed in the panels. The colors are vibrant and the lettering clean and efficient, yet neither overwhelm the rest of the visuals or the storytelling.
“The Rumbledome” by Jerry Lawson is a short story that’s included in the back of the book. Nicole is away for a few days and the kids, along with the dad, find themselves in a kind of surreal, kid-appropriate Mad Max Thunderdome. Like the main story, there is a lot of humor, and it really doesn’t take itself all that seriously. Both stories work and, taken together, deliver a truly amazing adventure!