Friday, May 04, 2018

Speed Racer Dystopia

23594349Breach, Jen and Holgate, Douglas. Cleam Hetherington and the Ironwood Race.
February 27th 2018 by Graphix/Scholastic
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Clem's archaeologist parents were both killed in an unfrotunate accident, and she has been sent to an orphanage, from which she has escaped. She goes to the Professor, hoping he will let her work on his digs, but he says that she is too young at 14 to do this. She and her robot companion, Digory, live in an abandoned building that has enough electricity to keep Digory charged, but the two are barely eking out an existence. When Digory is attacked and injured, Clem breaks down and contacts Kilburn, who had worked with her parents but didn't help her enough after their death. When he tells them about the Ironwood Race, Clem decides to enter with her parents' vehicle. The teams have to find certain antiquities, but there are no rules for the race, which gets very rough and tumble. Will the team be able to win the race and have enough money to fund future archaeological digs?

The setting of this is an appealing South Western, futuristic dystopia, peopled by robots and a variety of crocodile and lizard-like humanoids. The color palette of the graphic novel reflects this with browns, rusts and olive greens. The action scenes are well drawn, even if Clem is a dead ringer for Speed Racer behind the wheel of the car in her helmet!

Clem is an appealing character. She wants to follow in her parents' footsteps but doesn't want to take the time to go through school, which is understandable given the precarious nature of life in her world. The professor is a scatter brained but warm influence who wants the best for Clem, even if she doesn't agree with her vision. Kilborn is complicated and hard to understand, adding to the mystery element of the book. Digory is an engaging and capable robot companion. Even Tte young mechanic they meet during the race, Hec, is a nice addition.

This is a well formatted graphic novel. It is about the trim size of a standard middle grade fiction book, which gives more space for pictures, and the text is slightly larger and more readable than some manga. There isn't too much of it, either, so it's easy to comprehend the words that are that. This may seem like a picky observation, but since reluctant or struggling readers are drawn to books with pictures, I am not happy when there are a lot of tiny words crammed on pages in graphic novels. The Scholastic Graphix books usually have given more thought to the ratio of pictures to words as well as these other formatting issues.

Fans of Winnick's Hilo or Brailliers The Last Kids on Earth will enjoy racing along with Clem and Digory on their quest to uncover artifacts and get themselves into the good graces of the archaeological world.

And yes, this clip of the 1967 Speed Racer theme song is COMPLETELY necessary.

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