Typically, I am a patient person. But I have a confession to make: I watched as one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and EIGHT reviews were published, reviews for Señor Wooly and his new graphic novel, La Casa de la Dentista and I became more impatient with each one! Why? Señor Wooly had contacted me, as he had several other people, to ask if I would like to review his soon to be released graphic novel. What a question?!?!? Who wouldn’t jump at that opportunity? I have been a follower of his website for years and have seen the evolution of his work and phenomenal creativity. So why did I become impatient? Because I live in a rural area and my mail is always slow…but this time, it also landed in a neighbor’s mailbox who didn’t bring it to me until the next day! So, I watched as Allison Weinhold, Cynthia Hitz, Maris Hawkins, Arianne Dowd, Martina Bex, Kelly Ferguson, Kara Jacobs, and Dustin Williamson ALL posted their reviews. And I tried not to read them, just skimmed the opening paragraphs!!! I wanted to read the graphic novel without too much prior knowledge or opinion. And the suspense was KILLING me!
When I was teaching Spanish II many years ago (at least back in 2010 or 2011 ) my students enjoyed many of his early creations (I am almost ashamed to say that we must have chanted, in that sly voice, fui, fuiste, an infinite number of times) but most of all, they loved Billy la Bufanda. I have continued using the site, finally getting a pro subscription last year, and my students have continued to reap the benefits of his sense of humor, compelling lyrics and oh, so sneaky repetitions! Last year the favorites were PAN! and ¡Qué Asco! So, while Jim was emphatic in requesting an honest review of La Casa de la Dentista, favorable or not, I was pretty certain that his memorable brand of humor, his finely tuned sense of what appeals to students and his novel approaches to offering comprehensible input would be immediately evident in his latest creation. I am not surprised at all to say that I was correct!
Now that I have read La Casa de la Dentista, I have also read the reviews, in totality, from the people previously listed. It appears that we are unanimous in our overwhelming approval and recommendation of this new graphic novel. All of the previous reviewers have shared a multitude of ideas about how to use the novel as well as the links to the helpful tutoring session by Jim and Carrie (Toth) on how to teach with a graphic novel. Therefore, what might I add to what has already been said??
I will say that the very first opinion that I formed when I opened my copy for the first time was, “WOW! This book is beautiful!” Visually, it is stunning! The manner in which the story has been illustrated, the shaping of the characters, the vivid use of colors to portray emotions and moods and the layout of the frames on the page are immediately impressive. Even the size and weight of the book and, I know this is weird, the smell of the pages when you open it, take me back to my own childhood and teen years when I could not wait to dive into a particularly inviting book. And this book IS inviting….it is literally begging to be opened. I believe that even a reluctant reader is going to open this book without prompting. Just the cover of the book is eye-catching, with the beam of light from the flashlight, the aura of light from the match and the play of light on the faces practically insisting that the book must be opened. Once inside, the illustrations aid in stimulating the imagination, heightening the readers’ emotional response and perceptions, and definitely holding the attention of the reader while helping the reader move through the narrative. These illustrations are actively involved in assisting the reader comprehend the input that is repeatedly, creatively and uniquely expressed in the written words. Jim’s inspired, gifted narrative is marvelously enhanced by the illustrations of Juan Carlos Pinilla (Colombia), colorization by Davi Comodo (Brazil) and lettering by Lucas Gattoni (Argentina).
As many have noted in their reviews, this book is not written with the elementary student in mind. I would use it with middle and high school students. Many “horror or terror” movies or shows are rated PG13 because teens are usually the targeted demographic of that type of media. I think that statement may hold true for La Casa de la Dentista, too. I typically am not a fan of scary movies….I do not like to be scared! However, while the twists are many and the “fear factor” rich, it is a fascinating, coercive read. I fell into the rhythm of the dialogue and could not pull myself out. (Images from the preview of the first 18 pages)
Last year I purchased a classroom set (30 copies) of Billy y las Botas for use as a whole classroom novel. For me, I think that I will prefer to use La Casa de la Dentista in our FVR parts of each week. I did not want to be interrupted as I read this graphic novel….I wanted to be free to pause, to savor, to re-read, to ponder, to imagine, as I wanted to. I think that I will want students to run their eyes over all of the great reading material that I have accumulated for them, scanning the covers and coming to a halt as their eyes encompass the cover of this one. This is just my personal opinion and wish; I am positive that others will be highly successful using this as a whole class novel.
I know with certainty that when I add my beautiful hardcover copy of La Casa de la Dentista to the shelves of our classroom library, there will be some jockeying to be the first one in each class to read it. That will be my problem! My MOI (materials of instruction) funds are gone for the year, and I feel that several students in each class will want the book at the same time!