Whew, first one of these in a while.
Driving a Hybrid
Tristan and the Cuddly Defenders is the third book in a series by Nick Davis, as well as the second of his books that I’ve reviewed. As with his last book I reviewed, TatCD is a hybrid of comic and plain prose, although in this book there are much more illustrations to accompany the prose sections. This book’s story doesn’t flip flop on them though, and each of the mini stories it contains sticks to one medium or the other (with the notable exception of the finale, which is excellently morphed from short story to comic when things get interesting. For review purposes I’m going to split this into 3 parts: A quick review of the book, an in depth look at themes and plot, and some final, misplaced, thoughts.
The Cuddly Defenders is a strong kids book, especially if your child is growing out of teddy bears and into GI Joes. The book has just enough peril to keep things interesting, without going overboard and scaring kids. The only character whose design is moderately terrifying is the main villain, the Ex Cerula, who appears during the opening and ending action sequences.
The stories range from interesting to captivating, and the final story had me tied to my screen as I tabbed through the pages. While the story is definitely kid oriented, it will keep parents interested too. Many of the references, and even the toys, will strike more of a chord with older readers, while the stories and characters will keep kids excited for more.
The strongest part of the book, though, is the use of toys. A wide variety of toys are present in each story, from Suction cup arrows, to frisbees, to plastic cowboys, to nutcrackers, to legos, the creative use of toys is where Cuddly Defenders shines brightest. It reminds me of how I would play with toys as a kid, and what I see my child do when I force him off the TV. Cuddly Defenders shows kids that their old toys can have more life than any of their electronics.
The main theme of the book revolves around Archer the bear and the power of faith. Not religious faith, the faith in Cuddly Defenders is much more intimate: the faith a small child places in his teddy bear. I’m not going to lie. I had a teddy bear, and the only reason I use the past tense was I gave it to my son for his first birthday. Snowflake is his name, and he’s 22 years old. I remember, as a kid, playing with him. He was a king, the royal ruler of my room. He saw to it, along with his council of the wisest stuffed animals, that the kingdom was safe for all. But I also remember holding him when I was sad. Even into my teenage years, whenever I needed a hug, it was Snowflake.
So that faith resonated with me. Snowflake was a king, and a protector in my eyes.
That is what the cuddly defenders is about. These lost teddy bears, like Archer and Moorlock, who have lost their children’s faith, are missing something. And in a way it parallels to real life. A little faith in someone can be all they need to have the confidence to succeed. It’s the strongest theme of the book, and the one that resonated deepest with me.
Thoughts within Thoughts
It seems I forgot to talk about the art. The art in this book is done by Dan Nokes, and fits the subject material well. It shows real artistic strength to be able to switch from comic illustration, to prose illustration, as each requires something a little different. The art brings the universe and the characters to life just as much as the words do.
I started reading this to my son a few days ago, one story every bed time. His review will appear on “Watching William” next wednesday. As for my final thoughts? I have a feeling The Cuddly Defenders will not be forgotten by the kids who read it.
Check it out HERE