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Luke on the Loose: Toon Books Level 2 Paperback – 11 Mar 2014

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A 'sublimely enticing yarn...Raucous, riotous and riveting, infinitely re-readable and packed with overlapping gags in layers of beguiling pictorial superbly engaging, thrill-a-minute and hilariously exciting. --Comics Review --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Don't Let the Pigeon Lure the Kid 10 May 2009
By E. R. Bird - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The TOON Book idea was simple. Produce books for early readers in a comic book format, as created by a variety of different author/illustrators. Cat in the Hat with speech bubbles, if you will. The problem? Children's authors often say that novels are easy and picture books are hard. I'd take that one step further. Picture books are hard but easy books are near impossible. To be truly great you have to reinvent the genre. Seuss did. Mo Willems certainly has with his Elephant and Piggie. And until now the TOON Books have been finding their footing. They've hired a lot of artists that haven't done extensive work in the children's arena, and the result is that they're still figuring out the best way to present their material. And then came Bliss. Harry Bliss has been knocking off picture books left and right for a number of years now. He knows how to make an idea succinct. How to synthesize words into their most essential forms. And best of all, how to make it funny. "Luke on the Loose" may be the best TOON Book to come out so far. Hopping and hip, Bliss takes a simple idea and takes it to its logical extreme.

The first rule of toddler to preschool aged children? You don't let your eyes wander from them for a second. Not so much as a minute. It is a lesson Luke's dad is about to learn. While talking to a fellow grown-up in the park, the man fails to note the moment when Luke, entranced by the sheer proximity of pigeons, takes off with a mighty "YAAH!" Through the streets, over people's heads, around and about and through, Luke is a pigeon-chasing force of nature. While his parents alert every possible authority, the boy crosses from Manhattan into Brooklyn and it isn't until he falls asleep on a water tower that some nice firefighters can rescue him for once and for all. So the next time Luke's in the park? His dad has employed a clever solution.

Gotta give the man credit for the concept. When I was a kid, chasing animals was a fine sport. We didn't have pigeons where I grew up, mind, so I mostly restrained myself to rabbit and squirrel chases (score thus far - Squirrels & Rabbits: 22, Betsy: 0). And kids love tearing off towards a moving goal. If there were any flaw I'd have to say it would be the fact that Luke never actually gets a pigeon. You ever tried to catch a pigeon in New York City? Brother, I would bet you cold hard cash that if I walked outside my home right now I could probably pluck one of those fat, lazy little birds from the street with my bare hands. The pigeons of the city have many charms but speed and agility are not amongst them.

I don't want to go about speculating about Bliss's influences (his website is certainly mute on the point). I'm sure that as a New Yorker cartoonist he'd rattle off your usual list of hoity with the toity. He probably has a weakness for the odd 50s horror comic book as well. But one influence I detected in this book, perhaps unconsciously on his part, was a weird ode to Garry Trudeau and Berkeley Breathed. With his New Yorker cartoons Bliss has tended to limit himself a single panel. Faced with the sheer abundance of multiple panels, however, he's definitely drawn upon the Trudeau/Breathed school of jokes and gaggery. Nowhere is this more evident than in a six panel, two-page sequence where our hero bursts into a restaurant, leaping from patron to patron in his quest for flapping pigeons. The focus of the scene remains on the table of a man proposing to his girlfriend. Though lots of action happens around and about him, our view never shifts. Everything from the old man's spit take to the shot of the table itself screams weekday comic strip to me generally, and Bloom County / Doonesbury specifically.

The rest of the book spends a lot of time asking the reader to pay attention to what's going on in the background. In fact, almost more than teaching kids how to read on their own, I see "Luke on the Loose" as a title that will actually teach kids how to read a comic book. A lot of the story requires the reader to learn how to follow a story from one panel to another. And when you add in background stories as well, then a kid not only is reading the main story, but they're also backtracking and finding subplots and repeated characters and images to help them make sense of the images before them. I hear a lot of adults who never grew up with comics say that they have a hard time reading them. To them, I would hand "Luke on the Loose". It seems to have applications above and beyond the initial intent.

With its fast-paced trip from Manhattan to Brooklyn (a helpful map appears at the end for anyone interested) this is a uniquely New York book, true. And Bliss has filled it with a multi-ethnic cast (even going so far as to include cartoon characters like Olive Oyl . . . oddly). This really does feel like a New York title, but not so much that readers around the country will be turned off. Basically it just boils down to a fun romp, a child fantasy, and a great little easy-to-read comic that everyone can enjoy. Rural and suburban. Big and little.

Really the star of the show here is the art, the layout, and the premise. The text fulfills its purpose but it's not the main draw. As a whole "Luke on the Loose" is a fun book and a worthy addition to the Bliss oeuvre. Worth a gander, certainly.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
WIll Elder For Young Kids 18 April 2009
By Robert W. Clough - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Francoise Mouly-edited Toon Books are among the best edited and conceived books in all of comics (regardless of genre). It's hard to think of a better introduction to the art form than these books, which cleverly disguise their pedagogic nature in the form of their stories. At their heart, these books are Comics 101 courses, carefully breaking down and isolating what makes comics successful and how to make this plain to anyone. Take the covers, for example. Great care is taken to indicate that this isn't simply another illustrated picture book, but rather something far more immersive. The word balloon attached to a character on the cover screams "comics!" and makes a new reader pause to try to figure out how word and image are interacting. Above the main illustration on the cover are a couple of panels depicting action, whetting the reader's appetite for the book's content and again letting them know that this is something different from what they're used to.

After I finished reading Bliss' LUKE ON THE LOOSE, I immediately thought "This is an entry-level Will Elder comic". Reading his bio, he notes that he grew up loving Will Elder, so it was no surprise to see all sorts of eye pops and background gags in addition to the manic main storyline. This story is also a love letter to New York city, in all its diverse glory. It's about a little boy named Luke who squirms away from his father in Central Park in order to chase pigeons, and his tireless chase leads him halfway across the city, causing chaos in his wake.

Bliss packs layers of gags Elder-style on each page, often inserting famous comics characters into his scenes or having animals provide commentary. The way he uses animals in particular is very funny, as when a dog leaps into his owner's arms and hugs him like a person. I love the way the book depicts New York as being simultaneously perilous and packed with potential adventure, yet still full of caring individuals.

Like many of the other Toon Books, it's remarkable in how well constructed this is, given that Bliss is not greatly experienced in crafting long-form comics. The design of the book (simple and elegant) and the steady editorial hand of Mouly no doubt made it easy for him to adapt to a new form. The long-term effect of Toon Books won't be felt for quite some time, though one hopes it will encourage a new generation to read comics and continue to read comics throughout their lives.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great Book for Young Readers 17 April 2009
By Julie Peterson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A few months ago, I was lucky enough to receive the Fall 2008 line of Toon Books (see my review.) My son and I both treasure these books, and that's a very good thing because I read them to him all the time! I can't tell you how many times we've read them, but he's still laughs like a nut each and every time. So I was very excited when I received a package with two more of these Toon Books -- THE BIG NO-NO! and LUKE ON THE LOOSE. Both books are part of the Spring 2009 line and will be released in May 2009.

If you're not familiar with Toon Books, they are a line of comics for young readers. TOON Books' Editorial Director Francoise Mouly (who is also Art Editor of The New Yorker) and Advisor Art Spiegelman (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winner MAUS) introduced these books for young readers in Spring 2008. These books have since received loads of terrific praise. Schools are even beginning to use these comics in the classrooms as part of their reading curriculum.

THE BIG NO-NO and LUKE ON THE LOOSE were very similar to the other TOON books that we've read. Since they are in a comic book format, they have loads of pictures with lots of color and are jam-packed with action. There are few words on each page so the early reader won't get easily frustrated; and there is also lots of word repetition -- perfect for a young one who is learning to read. Another huge benefit is that the stories are filled with humor which definitely keeps my little guy interested. Take a look at some sample pages from LUKE ON THE LOOSE to get a better idea of how wonderful these books are!

These books will certainly appeal to kids ages four and up, but I love how they will especially appeal to young boys. Sadly, young boys often times just aren't interested in reading as girls of the same age. I think these comic books will definitely help to bridge that gap. I can see how these comics would encourage even the most reluctant reader to pick up a book.

I LOVE these books and look forward to reading them many more times with my son. I appreciate how he enjoys the stories now (at four years old), but I know that he will also love these books as he begins reading. I highly recommend checking these books out if you have a young child who is learning to read!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
a quick and fun read 14 Oct. 2010
By Heather Talty - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In this cartoon style graphic novel, little Luke gets bored while his dad talks to another dad, and runs amok in the city, chasing pigeons. Not only are the pictures cartoonish, the situations are as well. Most of the pictures are of Luke running, pigeons flying away, or Luke sweeping up leaves or wind in his wake. Dinners are interrupted, animals are frightened, buildings are scaled, before Luke falls asleep mid-climb, and is rescued and handed back to his relieved father. Good for kids who like action or who are amused by cartoon antics.
Very Energetic 23 Nov. 2009
By - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The plot of Luke on the Loose is simplicity itself: A little boy breaks free from his father's grasp and chases a flock of pigeons across New York City, causing havoc all the way.

Luke's father and a friend are conversing in "boring dad talk" when Luke is distracted by the pigeons. He runs after them, screaming, and winds up chasing them through Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge, absolutely oblivious to the chaos he and the pigeons are creating as they bring traffic screeching to a halt, disrupt a proposal of marriage, and knock over ice cream cones, until finally the pigeons fly up to the rooftops and Luke shimmies up a fire escape to join them. Luke climbs to the top of a water tower and falls contentedly asleep, surrounded by his beloved pigeons.

Meanwhile, Luke's parents are frantically looking for him, and grownups are watching out along the way, so the story never gets scary. Instead, it winds up with a terrific rescue by firemen in a ladder truck, although Luke sleeps soundly through the whole thing.

The story is very energetic, and it's easy to charge through the panels without stopping to look too closely. That would be a shame, because when Bliss fills a panel with detail, it's worth looking at. In the very beginning, while Luke's father looks frantically for his son, the background is filled with the aftermath of Luke's pigeon chase--a fleeing dog, a riderless skateboard flying into the panel. Bliss repeats some of these details in the final sequence, which is a nice touch. And he also sprinkles allusions to other comics throughout the story: Olive Oyl and Tintin show up in one scene, and other panels include cameos of Captain Haddock, the Incredible Hulk, and what looks like a Thurber dog (it's reading a newspaper).

Luke on the Loose has a classic comic-book look, dominated by flat areas of bright color. Bliss often uses big panels, filling a whole page with a single action, such as Luke's father looking frantically around him or Luke leaping through the air, surrounded by pigeons. Other times he uses a series of horizontal panels to show several moments of the chase in quick succession. The curving roads accentuate the sense of motion, and in one panel, a pigeon seems to fly off the page toward the reader.

Despite the simplicity of the concept, this is not an easy story to read aloud. Some panels have no dialogue at all, while in others, the characters are conversing about ordinary things as Luke bears down on them in the background. The adult cannot rely on the text but must describe the action and the details using his or her own words. Fortunately, Bliss has provided plenty of material to work with.

-- Brigid Alverson
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