Doodleville V01 by Chad Sell was a bit of a hard sell for me (okay got that out of my system). It is by the author of a book I felt was “Okay. Not OKAY!” (A small difference, but one nonetheless.) But I was in the mood for something that felt easy but knew would not be just fluffy and Doodleville seemed to fit.
And the theme of dealing with the fears and emotions of one girl was not fluffy. But it was not “heavy” either. The ways in which our main gal Drew deals with the emotions are realistic and sometimes, not “ha-ha” amusing but made me smile, thinking, “Did Sell steal my story?” As adults, we can look back and say, “It will be okay, Drew. Just hang in there.” Kids ages 8 to 13 (or a very young 14) could get their own “A-ha!” moment (and I do not mean the band) when they see that they (the reader) are not alone as everyone has feelings of sadness, fear, and anger. The coping (or not) and how you can do anything with a little help from your friends comes to life on the page. Just like Drew’s own doodles do! The illustrations are as important as the text. The two mesh and show what they can do together. The cover gives you how the inside art will look. It is sparse, heavy on the art and not so much the text, but what is there is strong.
The only real issue I have with the book is that it feels like this is not the first book in a series. I felt like I jumped right into the middle of the story. I was wondering if these were characters from another book and I just missed, or had forgotten, that. What I find interesting is even the adults can see the doodles come to life and are “oh la de da, pass the ketchup for the meat loaf please.” This casual attitude about the doodles seemed odd for adults to have. Though I am sure this will not phase the age aimed at.
The part I enjoyed was the “casual” introduction to the GLBTQ+ community and the multiracial humans. It never made center stage or is a “big deal.” It just is a fact of life. There are two princes from rival kingdoms that use their powers to save the day and show their love for each other. One human character looks nonbinary (their details for “gender” are fluid, their name is T.J. which could be Thomas James or Tara Joanne). The art of the characters drawn by the kids reflect their own style. Sometimes you are reminded multiple times of this fact, but it is okay, it just helps the story. Which actually ends on a “closed but open note. This allows for book two to be read or you are good with staying at one. However, I think most readers will move onto book two.