New graphic novel makes a splash with kids

By Ellie De Groote

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23 2013 1:30 p.m. MST

"MAL AND CHAD: Belly Flop!" by Stephen McCranie, Philomel, $9.99, 224 pages (f) (ages 8-11)

Would you like to read a story that will make you laugh out loud? Here is a perfect one for a belly laugh: "Mal and Chad: Belly Flop!" by Stephen McCranie, who first created the two characters for his college newspaper. Writing the book was no simple task, he noted, saying, "It took me about nine months. It was a long time, but totally worth it."

"Mal and Chad: Belly Flop!" is a graphic novel for kids, which makes sense since McCranie has been drawing comics his whole life.

"I've enjoyed drawing since I was 4 or 5 years old," he said. "Some of the first things I drew were ninjas, pirates and aliens."

The graphic novel is the story of a child inventor, Mal, and his talking pet dog, Chad. Mal trained Chad to speak by using a device he created.

Mal also created a cube that can make any kind of weather and he uses it to do chores for him. For example, he makes wind to blow away leaves, mini-tornados that mix compost and rain to water the garden.

Even though Mal is a genius, he does have a habit of getting things all wrong. At a birthday party, he accidentally belly flops into a pond (where he gets the nickname "Belly Flop"). He also messes up big-time in a talent show.

Mal can do a lot of things, but one thing he can't do is make Megan — the girl he likes — like him back. To find out whether he ever succeeds, you'll have to read the book.

Mal and Chad have their own great website, malandchad.com. It includes a lesson on how to draw them, the book trailer and a contest called, "Fill in the Space Bubble." It is fun reading the comic strips there, too. There are 200 of them.

"Mal and Chad: Belly Flop" is so funny, especially the party scene. The pictures are silly, with the funniest one being when Mal's invention whacks him across the face. All kids can enjoy this hilarious book.

"I wanted to draw Mal and Chad because I knew they would be the perfect characters to have a fun, yet exciting adventure," McCranie says of his main characters.

I have already read the book seven times and can't wait to read the first two books in the series. The first books in the series are "The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!" and "Food Fight!"

"Belly Flop!" came out in December and is written for kids ages 8 to 11 years old.

Ellie De Groote is in the fourth grade.

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