Reviewed by Katy Killilea
Readers of the Providence Phoenix will immediately recognize the work of Rhode Island cartoonist Steve Brosnihan. He’s the guy with the endless supply of insanely grinning and eyebrow-arching characters. He names his big artistic influences as Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) and Don Bousquet (Mr. Quahog). I get a manic/Muppety/Flying Zucchini Brothers vibe from Steve’s drawings as well. You might have heard about Steve on NPR–he was recently featured on WRNI in a story about his work as the Hasbro Children’s Hospital’s Resident Cartoonist. Every Tuesday and Thursday night since 1991, Steve has been teaching patients at Hasbro to draw satisfyingly professional-looking cartoons as part of the hospital’s Arts & Healing Program. He’s also the cartoon guru at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp (for children with cancer and other serious illnesses) in Connecticut.
Out of his experience teaching hundreds of kids to draw comes this instruction book, filled with goggle-eyed, eclectic characters. It’s written for anyone who can write the letters of the alphabet (ability to read not required). I have a kindergartener who has barely mastered the alphabet, and he’s enthralled by this book. Each character is drawn entirely from a handful of letters, and no more. All letters used are in the character’s name. For his first cartoonagram, my son skipped over the princess known as “ONE CUTE GIRL” and the cloud called “CLOUD NiNE” to the snake named “SLiMY COiLS.” He was gobsmacked by the result. I always love my kids’ artwork, but this was something different from the regular kindergarten drawing. The resulting snake in this case is moving toward the viewer, grinning with a “How ya like me now?” expression, and rattling its rattler with casual malevolence. A cartooning lesson? Sure. But also a demonstration of the magic that makes things greater than the sum of their parts.
The lessons in this book will engage not only those who are practicing their ABCs, but also older kids who draw and aspire to a more polished-looking result. Remember the rock star in fourth grade who could draw Snoopy perfectly? Cartoonagrams could nudge your young artist toward that kind of stardom. What’s more, a portion of the proceeds from this fun, funny, silly-but-smart book goes to The Tomorrow Fund for children with cancer.
Anyone Can Draw Cartoonagrams
By Steve Brosnihan
$12.95 Fly By Knight Designs