The Wild Piano: A Philémon Adventure

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I can’t believe I let this one sit for so long. I included The Wild Piano in this roundup of new titles from Toon Books, but it’s well past time for it to appear here, especially now that the third Philémon book is out.

Philémon is a French character who’s been around since 1965. His stories, however, have never been published in English before now. Therefore, in the pantheon of French-language comics, he’s mostly been relegated to Tintin’s and Asterix’s shadows. Toon Books recently published his first adventure, Cast Away on the Letter A, and it was such a success that they expedited the release of this second book. (See here for my review of that first book.)

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Philémon’s adventures are the pinnacle of absurdist comedy. Imagine if Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss had together imagined the most incredible people and places, and you’re on the right track. The Wild Piano is the second book in the series and is a direct continuation of the story from the first book. It picks up right where that one left off.

Technically, you don’t need to have read the first book to understand this one, but the setting is so fanciful that it sure does help.

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In this book, Philémon is arrested and taken captive for bouncing on blue grass. He’s locked up inside a zebra as punishment, and his only chance of escape is to enter the arena and tame a wild piano (by playing a chord). If he can do that, he wins a ride in an elevator. See?

Thankfully, it makes a bit more sense when you read it. This is complete and total fantasy. Kids will love the absurdity of it all, and if your kids are anything like mine, you’ll hear a lot of “But that’s impossible!” comments while reading. The book also features a nice appendix that gives some background on the various influences at play here: Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and Greek mythology.

If you’re a fan of the first book, absurdism, comics history, or how the art form developed in other countries, I heartily recommend this one. I was immediately drawn into the first book and was anxiously awaiting this one. The third book — The Suspended Castle — is also out from Toon Books, and we’ll be taking a look at it tomorrow.

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(Disclosure: Toon Books provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

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