The Dumbest Idea Ever!

A memoir written as a graphic novel tells how Jimmy Gownley began his career in comic books.

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    The Dumbest Idea Ever!,
    by Jimmy Gownley,
    Scholastic,
    240 pp.
    View Caption

Scholastic has released a new book by Jimmy Gownley, a comics creator best known for his beloved all-ages comic book series "Amelia Rules". The Dumbest Idea Ever! is Gownley's personal account of how he started to draw and write comics at the ripe old age of 15.

When his story starts, 8th-grader Jimmy is a popular, successful student and basketball star. But his world is turned upside down when he's sidelined not once but twice with illness and has to start from the bottom as a freshman in a new school.

As he reinvents himself he discovers his passion for making comics. When his first attempt, a subpar science fiction story, is a flop with his friends, his best friend suggests his next comic be about something he knows and cares about: himself and his friends in school. At first Jimmy thinks this is "the dumbest idea ever!" but he eventually warms up to the idea and in doing so finds his voice as a comics creator.

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With his new comic he becomes a local sensation and (temporarily) lets it go to his head. In addition to the story of his budding comics career, we see Jimmy deal with all the other issues of the teen years – romance, friendship, and school work.

Jimmy himself is a great character to read about and root for – a likable kid who makes plenty of mistakes. Gownley doesn't whitewash himself at all especially when his ego gets out of hand. Readers will easily relate to all his fears and insecurities, especially any fellow artists who will enjoy following the up and downs of Jimmy's creation of his comics and the way he shared them with the world.

Other standout characters include Jimmy's parents. His folks are so supportive of Jimmy's dream of making a comic book that they help him actually get it printed. Their story is a testimonial to the difference that parental enthusiasm and support can make as a child pursues a dream. Another memorable character is Tony Graziano, Jimmy's "new best friend" whom he meets in high school. Tony's faith in Jimmy's talent and his all-important suggestion as to what Jimmy should write about were instrumental in helping Jimmy find the best way to use his talents. It's quite appropriate that this book is dedicated to Tony, who sadly passed away in 1994.

The art by Gownley is wonderful – colorful, fun, and very fluid. The body language and facial expressions of his characters perfectly telegraph their moods. Gownley also uses the lettering of the word balloons very effectively to help to breathe life into his characters, moving from BIG to small, and light to bold, giving the reader a clear idea of HOW these words are spoken.

With "The Dumbest Idea Ever!", Scholastic – under its Graphix line of graphic novels for kids – has created another "must-read" book that kids (10 and up), parents, and budding artists will all love and identify with.

"The Dumbest Idea Ever" is a heartwarming, funny tale of a kid getting lost and stumbling often as he discovers his life's passion.

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