Written and illustrated by: Sean Rubin
Published by: Archaia
Review by Stephanie Cooke
Sybil is a little girl who loves dinosaur. How does everyone keep missing an ACTUAL dinosaur?! Sybil is hellbent to trying to prove that he exists while everyone is pretty keen to brush aside her claims as childhood fancy.
Meanwhile, Sybil’s neighbour really IS a dinosaur named Bolivar who minds his own business and gets by just fine in a city where everyone is too occupied with their own lives to notice a dinosaur living amongst them. Not only is Bolivar living amongst them but he thrives there too and gets out to enjoy the sights as often as possible.
It’s such a fun premise to have a dinosaur running around such a big city like NYC. With people flocking to try to catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, turning the idea of having an extinct dinosaur living right among us is lovely. It makes you a little sad at times though; Bolivar tells a story about people too preoccupied with everything else that they don’t notice something as basic as they’re literally talking, walking, and breathing beside a dinosaur. It makes me hope that people reading the story pick up on that a little bit and try to be a bit more mindful of those around them on a day to day basis. It certainly made me think a bit about how I choose to absorb what’s around me.
Sean Rubin writes and illustrates Bolivar and integrates a lot of storybook esque elements and mixes them in with comic book elements. For instance, there’s a lot of big illustrations accompanied by story text to tell you what’s going on but there’s also panels on every few pages and the dialogue is presented like comic book dialogue in word bubbles and such. It’s a great melding of two worlds that works fantastically here.
Rubin’s style is a mix of children’s illustrator with lots of fine etching and the like, and then there’s a fine arts quality to a lot of the pages which depict different parts of New York City (not that illustrator and fine arts aren’t in the same ballpark or I think more highly of one or the other…)
My heart actually skipped a beat when I turned the page of the book to discover an illustrated mosaic depicting the jazz age that the title character, Bolivar, goes by. It was so rich with colour that screamed jazz to me and the whole look of that particular spread just floored me and had me staring at it for a solid two minutes as I took it all in. It’s not even that it’s particularly elaborate or that the style is nicer than the rest of the book (which is also fabulous). It was just that that page spoke to me in a completely different way than all the rest. Our main characters are even shown on the page. Since the book takes place in New York City, it’s entirely possible that this mosaic actually exists somewhere there (it appeared to be in a subway station) but I had never seen it before and I love Sean Rubin’s interpretation of it.
A couple pages later, there’s another stunning big page spread of Chinatown that felt so vibrant and alive. Rubin does a great job of mixing his comic pages that are telling the overall story with snippets of NYC that he really seemed to have a personal connection with. They’re sprinkled throughout the book so perfectly and add something extra special to the story.
For a story that’s geared towards kids, it’s wonderfully substantial. There’s lots of story here and it took me a couple of sittings to get through (mostly because like a child, I fall asleep during my bedtime stories as an adult…) so I have no doubt that if you were to purchase this for a little one, you’d get lots of mileage out of this book.
That being said, don’t think that this is exclusively enjoyable for kids. The artwork by Sean Rubin, paired with a delightful story make this a great addition to any collection for people of all ages.
Bolivar will make you smile and will keep you turning the page as you enjoy the journey you go on.
Must buy! I adored this book from start to finish and I highly recommend getting it for you or a loved one this holiday season.