Cedric – tales of unrequited love (and stink bombs)
By Cauvin and Laudec
Very much one for the children here. I know Molly (age 10) enjoyed it a lot; read straight through and kept pointing out some of the really silly stuff to me (stink bombs were a favourite – I really hope she’s not getting any ideas) and now wants to read Volume 2. All of which means I’m naturally predisposed to like Cedric. And I do. It’s funny, smart and sweet in equal measure. Sort of a gentler Dennis The Menace or Calvin & Hobbes with a longer narrative and no tiger. It looks like an inferior Peanuts mixed with the American Dennis the Menace by Hank Ketchum.
Cedric is a simple strip book that’s hugely popular in Europe – running to 23 books so far and with sales that US & UK comics can only drema of. Each story runs between 2 and 5 pages long. It’s comedy gag work executed really well; one of the best, but not the funniest strips in here is when Cedric’s best friend fills him in on the plight of the Vietnamese Boat People and the terrible risks they take in trying to find safe refuge. In half a page writer and artist do the very difficult thing of introducing a serious moment in the course of a funny strip. And they do it very well indeed. You can see the pay off a mile away of course as a concerned Cedric asks his new, foreign classmate Chen:
(A concerned Cedric, worried about Chen makes a stupid mistake. Like Molly said to me – Chen’s the smart one, it’s the boys who are stupid and ignorant.)
Cedric is 8, lives with Mom, Dad and Grandpa and is desperately in love with Miss Nelly, his teacher. He’s a sweet boy but has that knack of being in just the wrong place at the right time to cause most amount of trouble. It doesn’t help that sometimes he doesn’t really make the best choices either: It may not be the best thing to go around putting stink bombs in the confessional at church. Or in the gym, or in the posh kids backpack. And if you are going to put one in your teacher’s boyfirend’s car make sure she’s not going to get him to give you a lift home first. Likewise you shouldn’t drive a remote controlled car through the town centre and expect things to go well. And definitely, definitely keep off the champagne – especially when you need to tell Dad about a particularly poor school report. Like I said – problems making the right choices.
But Cedric’s love life is complicated by Chen’s arrival, the Chinese girl we’ve already talked about. It takes a while, but Cedric’s heart is eventually stolen away by this vision – and there’s a lovely series of visual touches for this, my favourite being Cedric’s flower bordered speech bubbles:
(It must be love: Cedric’s very words give him away.)
And as much fun as the slapstick and the silly stuff is, it’s this tender little love story, completely unrequieted, that gives Cedric a spark. I found myself smiling at the fun stuff but rather skating over the latter ones after the jokes started getting a touch repetitious. But the tender little love story playing out is what made me want to keep reading. And poor Cedric; every time he gets anywhere near letting Chen know how he feels, something always gets in the way – something that usually leaves you with a huge smile:
(Poor Cedric – pouring his heart out whilst Chen enjoys his present)
But in some ways none of this matters. I might enjoy the soppy, silly stuff more than the out and out silly. But Molly loved the lot. And she is the book’s audience after all. And she’s looking forward to getting hold of Volume 2. Maybe you’ve got someone small that would love Cedric as much as she did?