Alright kids, it's that time again. This time, I went way back in the day to 1993 for a gem called The Man in the Ceiling by Jules Feiffer. This middle grade novel integrated graphics into the narrative before Hugo even dreamed of inventing anything. Young Jimmy wants nothing more from the world than to be a great cartoonist one day and have his father admire his brilliant comic strips. However, his father has no time for artistic types and Jimmy is challenged in the hand-drawing department. Schoolyard faux-friendships, sibling squabbles and a wayward uncle, amongst other various aspects of Jimmy's life, are introduced separately as the chapters progress. During the first handful of chapters, it seemed like each was a window into different vignettes of childhood for Jimmy, but they weave together into a cohesive storyline, one topic relating and referring back to the other.
The narration is delightful and often reminds you that the author is telling the story about Jimmy without being obvious or too demanding of the reader. My favorite example is on page 31, where the author comments on his own writing by saying,
"Now, I could take up the next five pages telling you what Lisi said, and it would be printed in capital letters to show how loud she said it, but you'd get bored reading the same lines over and over, so what's the point? However, I'll give you some examples: 'I ASKED YOU FOR ONE SIMPLE FAVOR...'"Other great examples are on pages 35, 140, and 120, just to name a few. I only had qualms with one sentence out of the whole book, which, if you ask me, is pretty good considering most of the rubbish out there. That sentence is on page 63 and despite Art Spiegelman's reassurance on the back that this is "a book for kids without an ounce of condescension in it," this particular sentence insults the memory of the reader with a reminder of something they learned in the previous chapter. Perhaps it isn't that big of a deal, but all the same, I felt it was extra.