By: Sango Morimoto
Format: SC, partial color, $7.99
Reviewed by: Diamond BookShelf
Taro is an ordinary kid with a magic pencil that causes his drawings to come to life. He uses it to transform himself into a heroic dog named Terrie and has adventures in the goofy magical land of Doodledom. In this third volume of the manga series for kids, the evil, eraser-wielding King Crossout has kidnapped Taro's bunny sidekick Hippity, causing Taro to transform into Terrie and embark on a rescue mission that leads him through a creepy carnival in Doodledom, overcoming obstacles and gaining unexpected allies along the way.
In keeping with the doodling theme, Morimoto's style is much looser and more casual than fans of manga may be accustomed to. The plot also feels casual and random, as though Taro really is making it up as he goes along. The story is silly and nonsensical, making full use of gross-out humor and goofy puns interspersed with puzzles, games and moral lessons about bullying and friendship. Terrie fights an imposing bully named Blockade Boy, but manages to win him over with jokes and turn him into an ally against King Crossout.
Layouts are simple, sparse and easy to follow, bridging the gap from picture books to comics. Some pages are in color while most are black and white. Due to the looseness of both artwork and plot, it is a little difficult to tell what is going on in the story and in the artwork at times. There are many rules concerning the use of the magic pencil that are not fully explained and may be confusing to a new reader. It should be noted that this is the third volume in a series and is not recommended as a starting point.
Despite this, Taro and the Carnival of Doom is silly and lighthearted, and will keep readers occupied with games and activities that include a maze, fake facts, jokes and treasure hunts. It also encourages the joys and imaginative possibilities of doodling for fun, and should appeal to children of 8 years and older who like goofy, slightly gross humor and wacky stories.