Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review: Toonopolis: Gemini

"Toonopolis is a cartoon city that is home to the thoughts and ideas of all sentient beings in the universe. As the center of the Tooniverse, it acts as an other-worldly rest stop for these creations.
Gemini is a teenage human boy who is thrust into Toonopolis through his father's scientific research program. He loses part of himself in the process and immediately begins a quest to regain his lost memories with the help of his Tooniverse guide named Jimbob the Talking Eggplant.
After an altercation with a mysterious Shadowy Figure, Gemini's mission is changed, and he begins a new quest to defeat Shadowy Figure and protect Toonopolis from his nefarious destruction. Along the way, he meets new friends, discovers just how diverse and strange Toonopolis is, and learns lessons about compassion, forgiveness, redemption, and being true to oneself."

Publisher: Portmanteau Press LLC
Release date: May 10, 2011
Page count: 314 (paperback)
Format: Kindle ebook
Unique elements: Illustration (by Cami Woodruff) at the beginning of each chapter of a character that the reader will meet
Would appeal to: Anyone who likes Saturday morning cartoons or Marvel comics, fantasy fans

Favorite Quotes:

"'The shopkeep was only selling wooden weapons. I asked her about metal ones, and she said you weren't high enough level to use metal yet.'"

"'Speaking of cats, here is lesson two: Feline Matter Rearrangement Impermanence, or FMRI.' 'Say what?' Gemini responded. 'Anything done to a cat is not permanent...' Professor Rabbit retrieved from his desk a remote control with a single red button. When he pressed the button, a cartoon-style anvil fell from the ceiling onto the cat. Gemini gasped at the blatant violence right in front of him...The cat was left as a two-dimensional circle, much like a Frisbee, on the ground...'You see. No damage done.' The cat shot a hateful glare at the professor, suggesting that it did not agree with his analysis of the situation."

"'How did you get in here?' asked Miss Fire. 'We found the secret switch of predictability and climbed the rope ladder of awesomeness into your lair of...' Jimbob began and struggled for an appropriate adjective to describe an open room with nothing but a circular table in the center. 'Cool?' he ventured."

"'Funny,' observed Jimbob, 'it was just a clear sky. It seems like the rain only appeared suddenly for some sort of dramatic effect, setting up a more interesting fight sequence.'"

"'You humans seem to have vampires on the brain. We have been inundated with tons of vampires for years upon years. We didn't know what to do with all of the vampires sent to us from Sorting Square, so we created the Sea of Vampires with them'...'So you're saying that so many humans have created vampire toons that there are enough to fill an entire sea?' asked Jimbob in shock...I blame Anne Rice.'"

My first requested review. It was an enormous privilege to read the first in a fantasy YA series by Jeremy Rodden, an impressively creative individual who has created a toon world where it's always Saturday morning.

How can you not like a book with a talking Toonopolis guide named Jimbob the Eggplant? He has hands that appear whenever he needs them. Reminds me of Veggie Tales, but Jimbob's a much wittier vegetable.

This genre of YA is not something I'd normally pick up. I am so glad the author contacted me! It has humor, style, clever banter, and fabulous character names. I think I've found something to advertise to my sophomore boys that they might...(gasp)...enjoy.

This would be a fabulous teaching tool for middle or high school English. As far as figurative language goes, Rodden weaves devices seemlessly throughout the text. I spotted personification, allusions, irony, paradox, similes, puns, hyperboles, idioms, cliches, and onomatopoeias.

The allusions were amazing. A mention of Scooby Doo or Rainbow Brite made me wistful for childhood. There are nods to novels like The Wizard of Oz, when Gemini must walk on a Rainbow-PEZ road to get to Toonopolis and the Sorting Square (a little Harry Potter in the mix!) Not to mention, references older teens and adults would get like X-Files...reminded me of Shrek because only the older crowd understands certain jokes.

Description was superb. Rodden found so many different adjectives and verbs that I was amazed-- another thing I could stop while reading in front of my class and say, "Look at that diction!" I hardly noticed repetition. Two words I did notice use a few times were "confrontation" and "wisp," but they were both important to the story and necessarily repeated. There were two sentences with two verbs used in a row (one that should have been taken out but was forgotten), but it did not disrupt the flow of reading very much.

As far as accents go, you've got the gambit: gangster, New York, Irish, British. I loved the diversity of characters. Some mythical Greek creatures appear, but also brand new ones that Rodden has created. The reader sees talking objects everywhere. In cartoon land, as long as something appears to be real, it doesn't really have to work.

Early on, one of my favorite parts was when Gemini had to visit Professor Rabit to learn about the Laws of Cartoon Physics. That way, the Outsider Gemini will succeed through the various lands- Adventure Realm, Supercity, Animetown, Camenot (and I can't continue because half the fun is discovering the names for yourself). Even though I loved Jimbob (he truly has the best lines in the book!), I appreciated Sir Hawk's character because he represented the chivalry of medieval times. The word "paladin" was even introduced (and I saw "wince" and "consternation" which are two vocab words my students had last week...strange coincidence). Animetown was hilarious to me-- the slow motion fight scenes, the word "kawaii" (I used to live in Japan), the way characters' heads and eyes grew two sizes bigger when they were surprised.

Gemini's adventure is sliced by reports from Agent Mimic who is running Operation Gemini from the human world on planet Earth. Parts of those reports were confusing to me. I got the idea that Gemini/Jacob Grenk was the "Agent" referred to, but I couldn't figure out why he would have been given a list of targets from the Agency to destroy. It's possible the overall plan for the operation comes out more in book 2. I liked the idea that humans and cartoons had a direct effect on each other's worlds and that when a creation rebels against its master, the human goes a little crazy.

There was a pretty big plot twist toward the last quarter of the book where Gemini learns something interesting about himself and why he must face Shadowy Figure.

I'm pumped about reading the second book to see what happens to all the characters. By the end, I felt proud of the bond between Gemini's gang and wanted them to go on another adventure together. I hope we see more of the same characters again, as well as some new ones!

The Kindle copy of this book is only 99 cents-- a bargain for a book you'll find hard to put down.

A delightful read that will make you laugh out loud, root for the good guys, and wish you had a talking eggplant as your sidekick.

1 comment:

lindsey said...

I really loved this book too, despite not having been a YA for a few years (well quite a few actually!). It's the kind of book you can share with a younger generation and both find something to truly laugh at!