Thursday, May 5, 2016

Frankie Pickle

Written and Illustrated by Eric Wight
Published by Simon & Schuster books for Young Readers
Cover Design by Eric Wight and Lizzy Bromley

In my long history of comics and cartoons, animation and film, illustrations and illustrators I've only just heard of Eric Wight in 2016, though I've grown up with his designs and influence since 1999. In 2010 Eric Wight put out an amazing series called Frankie Pickle a children's series of mixed media writing. It's like when a film puts live action and animation within the same flick, though this is illustration, writing, and comics all combined in a casserole of delicious wit. As you can tell I've become a fan of Eric Wight and his work through the years, I've also found out that he's an alumni of SVA (School of Visual Arts) too. I'm not bias based on his history, I'm bias on his skill and style. Eric Wight is a talented storyteller and an accomplished cartoonist, so join us on this adventure into his work and mind. First on this journey is Frankie Pickle, a young boy with an amazing family.

Closet of Doom

This was a book written for those that don't like to clean thing, for those that like to have a functional mess. though when messes get out of hand it's hard to say things are functional anymore. The first book in the series, it's really interesting to see the world come together, though at the same time be loose enough for anyone to see them self as the main character. Everything is in black and white, it's an interesting design chose, also that it reminds me of The Replacements, a show that was on Disney channel created by Dan Santat. The cover illustration and the first page pinup are really nice. I like that it plays the duality that he's more or less a strong character, though relates back to his more child like roots in being a kid, things are scary in the great unknown.

We're introduced to the main cast, Frankie (Franklin Lorenzo Piccolini), Frankie's Sisters (Piper is the oldest of the siblings and Lucy is the youngest), Mom (no name is given at this time), and Dad (No name is given for the moment). Reading on we see that they all have different values and strengths. It seems that Frankie is fashioned after the creator of the book. He has amazing creativity and can draw, though his day dreaming seems to get him into trouble, since it's a convincing  reality. What I mean by this is, there's not stupendous things happening, he's not on a Space Station, he's not part of a Secret Family of Scientists or Librarians, he's not a kid with superpowers, he's an awesome kid that's learning to live life. Kenny is Frankie's best friend and he plays music to communicate. It's a cute idea, since it reminds me of a lot of 80's characters, I'm looking at you Snorks! Mom is the dryer sheet fairy, I really love the fantasy designs for Frankie and the family, since it's something out of the norm and takes one's mind off of the surrounding conflict and runs it into something that's relatable to someone that's learning to read or gives them interest in other things to read or watch. Also Mom is the Mayor, which she looks dapper and is an awesome person for the role. Eric Wight really seems to want that in the foreground whenever thinking about the Mom and any of her positions in the series, she's in charge and is a good leader.

Professor Steeping cleaning house, someone has to do chores, also be able to get close enough to the vacuum before it sets fire, it's the little things that keep a household together.

Dad is an amazing chef, baker, and all around Dad type of guy. Interested in cars and sports, even has a Man Cave, which won't come up till the second book. Mom is an all around awesome character, her design and traits that she's strong is over flowing. Everything from being a manager of the possum scouts to letting her children figure out life in the best way, though she's responsible enough to make sure that her children help each other and the family. In this story I guess she figured that Frankie would mess up and want to clean everything in his room over the weekend. Piper is an all around sports nut, she's the older brother troupe, who plays every sport possible. I really like her character because she's not written as a guy and placed into this world with the opposite gender, though there's not a lot about her that makes her function differently than that, but something about her changes that dynamic (can't place my finger on it yet). She's usually seen with Dad, since she can't drive yet, but it makes me wonder what the parents do for a living. Nothing's said and they seem to have the house under control, like their only job is to take care of this house and family. Honestly, from the point of view of a kid this makes sense. I didn't really know what my parents did till I was older than Frankie Pickle.

Anyhow the plot is pretty general, Frankie doesn't want to clean anything, not his room or himself, so his Mom (who's over worked) says "Don't clean the room" if he wants it to be clean he'll clean it, if not then he'll have to live in it. And so he does, till the smell and his clothes get too much for him. His toys keep getting lost, and none of the family want to get close to him because of his odor. He has a dream like Nemo in Slumberland (by Winsor McCay) or Scrooge from a Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens), he sees the wrongs in his way and wants to change his misdoings. Through the night he cleans and cleans with the help of his awesomely named dog Argyle. I love that dog, though he adds nothing, but aesthetic cuteness to a scene. Then the World goes back the way we came in, Frankie being a curious about the World lad and his great family. It ends on a happy note, then a preview of what's to come in the next book.

Tea Steeping is still a little young for a drive on her own, though also is her feet and that arm, so a drive around supervised by the professor is fine, here and there.

Now that's the thing I've found in a lot of these types of kid's book, that there's really no story, it's mostly something to progress the pages and have some interest as the page turns for the next page to turn. This is different, since it's created by someone that understands what kids are looking for in their reading. When I was a kid I didn't read, it wasn't interesting to me, though I loved comics and book, I just didn't want to read them. Then I sat down one day and loved it, something just clicked into place in my head and I couldn't keep a book down. I need to read more, but it was a slow process, since it started with comics, those only came out once a month. Then it grew to books, but that wasn't till college. This Children's series is a great example of how to get kids into reading, especially those that don't want to read. It's beautifully illustrated and complex. What I mean is it's not just a single image per page or a spread telling you everything rather then the writing. It's a combination of pin-ups and comics, it's a hodgepodge of wonderfully inked pieces connected the plot and keeping things themed together under one idea. This isn't a master piece, it's a series that did it's job, getting kid's interested in reading. If I was a kid and knew about this when I was 7-10 then I would have been reading a lot more, even drawing more too.

Pinerun 3000

Introducing the unseen Aunt Rachel, they will never talk about her again.

Anyhow, this is a story about Frankie wanting to get to his next level of scouting, I've been there before, it's a cute adventure to want to be a scout, though it really wasn't for me. I guess I'm not a very good "Great Outdoors" person, though I do enjoy nature I'm not one for it. Frankie can't quite make the cut this time, he thinks of this whole process as becoming a better hero, a superhero in training, though he can't quite get over that hump. He seems to be stuck in Robin mode, where he'll be known as the boy wonder till he forms the Titans. The outfits are interesting during his fantasy, Mom is Lady Liberty (a Golden age hero with the same outfit that's themed after our giant French Hudson river islander). Frankie is Pickleman or something close to that, it's your classic cape and domino mask, with a pickle as his symbol of justice. What creates fear in the hearts of evil… fermented cucumbers…?

The plot is very general, it's plane and simple, Frankie wants to go up a level with the rest of his friends, though didn't pass the test to do so, then he finds out that if he races in the pinewood derby he'll be able to get up with his friends, but he'll have to win it all. That's it, so he makes a car that he thinks is awesome, it's pretty much a block of wood. This is what happens sometimes to artists, we think that something is the greatest, that we made the next revered master piece that no one has seen before and will praise for all time. That's an ego that is knocked out of you in Art school, though is further kicked out when in the field.

I'm not really sure where Gom gets these weapons, though the little automaton could be making them on the side, still it's impressive... the poor number never stood a chance.

Moving on, after his defeat at the hands of the most perfect person in Frankie's life, which we'll never see again, since Frankie has to mess things up and learn a lesson about it. Frankie loses the race with his pine car. His Dad from the start wanted to make a car with him, it's been a generational thing that's gone back to 1953 with his Grandfather winning the first one. So Dad takes a look at Frankie's drawings for the race car, it's really amazing that this kid can draw that well at such a young age, though there's a lot of people out there that can draw, but chooses to keep it as a hobby or just fell out of interest. Sorry I keep getting side tracked with life. So Dad and Frankie team up and take on this adventure, they build an awesome car that beat a lot of the other pinewood races at the tournament.

This is a good time for me to talk about art again, this specific book in the series is all about the comic pages, since they show a ton of kinetic energy. What that means is it gives off the impression that it's moving, that things are fast without having to move. It's like a storyboard, though that becomes motion later, this is a comic about racing cars, and since we all know that cars move. That race cars move faster it's all assumed by our minds that they are moving at a speed that's faster than we drive and making certain noises. Also have you ever been to one of these derbies before, it's not that exciting, since it's just a slope and a wooden block with wheels waiting at the top. Though as a kid I'd imagine (like Frankie Pickle too) that it was something much more grand than it was, but still the way that Eric Wight connected the fantasy and reality to the event was wonderful.

Anyhow Frankie doesn't win the race, he loses and wants to cry, this is the first book in the series where he cries. After the first place trophy is awarded Frankie is rewarded for having the most interesting design. Dad really liked it and so did the judges. The design of the car and the actions that the car took within the book related to those of Speed Racer, though a little Grease Lighting was thrown into the mix too. Frankie moved onto the next level of scout and the book ends with an awesome spread of the family as superheroes. Piper and Lucy weren't really in this book, since Lucy is still a baby, so like Argyle was just aesthetic in the scenes. Though Piper did add a little to the book, since scouts are all boys in this world, still, I like it when there's no gender for the scouts, since I really didn't talk to girls till High School, I think inter-gender mingling would have been a bit better than separating us all by chromosomes. She made a point that she's as good or better then any guy, I like that attitude to life, that the Mother didn't stop her from making that point, though the Dad helped Frankie's explanation from being completely ignorant, that it really was because of the Scouts not because of having a Y chromosome.

This was one of my favorite books of the series, since it blends well between drawings and words. The collaboration of comics added a new dimension between static words and static images, giving kinetic implications to the drawings of motorcars or actions. The pacing and the relatable theme are what brings out this book the most for me. It's a moment in life that I can relate to and see the future that stands before Frankie Pickle.

Mathematical Menace

This was the book that introduced me to everything that's the world of Frankie Pickle, it's a really great series and this was a wonderful introduction, since the characters all felt full and realized, though I didn't know it was the third novel in the series. To put the plot simply, Frankie failed another test, though this one was in Math. That's a tough subject for a lot of art students. It's something joked about often, but is something that's needed in life and is awesome when applied correctly to life. Anyhow Frankie gets distracted by the numbers and how hard the test was, he didn't seem to be having a trouble with the numbers, but he did get into a doodling mood and stop caring about the test. I've been there in school where you just don't care what the teacher is saying and you just want to draw, then you come out of the trance and start going to your next class because that's the bell.

Frankie's teacher asks him to come after class to talk about what he did for the test. It's a failing grade since there's nothing written on it. She gives him till Monday to study and retake the test after school. Teachers have done this for me and other students, it's really nice of them and you can bounce back from the extra time to study, though it's something they don't do twice. He feels like he's sick, there's a lump in the bottom of his throat and he can't swallow it down. He talks it over with his parents and lies to them, he's not a good liar, but a good storyteller. So they help him out subconsciously, which is awesome of them to do, since he's having a hard time with his confidence, but not his skill. He knows Math really well, but doesn't think he does, so Piper teaches him scores with Football practice, Kenny teaches him fractions with Yugimon, Mom with coupons, and Dad with baking cookies. It's really a fantastic way to want to read and learn Math at the same time, since it's not something really complicated or something that you have to memorize it's all organic and paced well.

Oona Kulte really digs cosplay, that's mostly how Gom and her hit it off.
Though she's just as lost as I am on how the short bot got a preserved Dinosaur egg.

Anyhow after the weekend of not studying, though studying through activities, Frankie passes the test no problem and is awarded an A for doing so, that's a really great teacher, since we'd only be about to get a letter grade under, she's a one of a kind for sure. They end on a high note with pizza and comics, really Frankie wanted a comic and Mom got him to save them a lot of money for the groceries, though the comic was gone before they could get it. So Mom and Dad went around looking for the new issue, it's really not that hard to find a new issue that came out that month, but it's a book and a well deserved reward for doing so well in school.

Not too much fantasy this time, though this book shows that there's not only dreams for joy, but there's dreams for horror. Frankie throughout this book has nightmares of Math, Mathmares. Yeah it was pretty exciting, it felt like a Math themed D&D (Dungeons and Dragons, or any other fantasy RPG) campaign it was well presented and the world that the monsters functioned in had a purpose and would help Frankie overcome his fear of numbers. Again Argyle and Lucy added to the visuals of the book, but nothing really to the plot. Lucy swimming in the frozen foods was perfectly weird and funny, loved that joke!

The art was a lot less, though the plot was a lot heavier, it really had good emotional moments and the art did help where added, but was the best in the Frankie Pickle series. I still love the first books references and images, but this was the one that got me into the series as a whole, also gave Eric Wight a new fan, since his style is something that I idolize.

The Land of the Lost Recess

"After visiting the Natural History Museum with his family, Frankie Pickle convinces his fourth-grade classmates to help him dig for dinosaur bones at recess, but first they must convince the fifth-graders to find another place to play."

This is the quote for the book based on the library that I use, the book has never been printed, but the cover was made. It seems that it got all the way to printing approval, but never went through. Also there were two more titles, so there was hope for 6 books in total. I think this one would have been the most socially interesting and an amazing time for those that love to see well drawn dinosaurs and the caveman Piccolini family.

Series Assessment

Overall this is a series that I would give to someone that was getting into reading or loves art or comics. This collaboration between the two media was expertly written and wonderfully described visually and emotionally within a story that is intended for a younger audience. If you're someone like me that wants to read something with depth between characters, awesome designs, and writing that reflects not only the drawings, but the character, then this is a book series for you. Each book is less than one hundred pages allowing someone that's a casual reader to take their time on the pace that they'd want to complete the book let alone the series.

I trust you enjoyed the inspection, thank you for reading.
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Keep well and Stay well.

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