by Beth C.
Candlewick Press is an independent children’s publisher and the home for TOON Books, its imprint for comic and graphic novels. And like its parent company, TOON Books has plenty of rockstars on its roster, including Art Spiegelman, Neil Gaiman, Jeff Smith, Lilli Carré, and now Fred (Frédéric Othon Aristidès).
Fred is most known for his Philemon Adventures that first appeared in the July 1965 issue of Pilote, a French comic magazine. Although initially a serial publication, the Philemon Adventures were collected over the years into sixteen albums. Cast Away on the Letter A: A Philemon Adventure is Fred’s first volume to be translated into English for a whole new generation to enjoy. It’s definitely a tale for kids of all ages.
In the blurb for Cast Away on the Letter A, the fantasy world created by Fred is compared to Alice’s Wonderland, Little Nemo’s Slumberland, and Oz. With comparisons like that, the bar is set pretty high, and readers will definitely expect a grand experience. I am happy to report that Cast Away on the Letter A definitely delivers one.
The adventure of the protagonist, Philemon, begins when he falls into a well. He quickly gets pulled down deeper and deeper into the waters, encountering sharks and schools of fish before losing consciousness. After some time, Philemon wakes up on a beach. The clear sky boasts two suns, and the surrounding land contains bizarre flora and fauna. Philemon soon learns that he is a cast away on an island shaped like the letter A. And not just any A, but the A from the word “Atlantic,” as in the Atlantic Ocean — letters and words on maps that don’t even exist but for labeling purposes. In this fantasy land, Philemon meets Bartholomew, a well digger from his own village, a centaur named Friday, exotic plants with transformative properties, a unicorn with a prophecy, and many more characters.
The art work is fun, colorful, and fantastic. The science nerd in me is so happy to see that on a world with two suns, Philemon correctly has two shadows.
Cast Away on the Letter A has received so much advance praise that TOON Books plans to publish more Philemon Adventures, as well as other works by Fred. Visit the book’s webpage for page previews and to see the special features that TOON Books incorporates into all their titles in order to engage the readers with the content.
Cast Away on the Letter A will be published on September 9.
Get your copies of Cast Away on the Letter A as well as other releases from TOON Books: