Amelia Rules V4

“Who’s school picture was this?” “Too late, keep smiling.”

Amelia Rules Vol 4: “When The Past Is A Present”

Atheneum/Simon & Shuster (January, 2010)

originally published by Renaissance Press, 2008

COVER DESIGN: Sonia Chaghatzbanian

I found this at an Ocean State Job Lot for $2, because someone changed the sticker and didn’t tell the computer. (It was like$2 change) However, there’s a newer printing on Amazon so that might be why. I haven’t seen it on store shelves around here and after I read a Free Comic Book Day introduction I’ve been curious about the series. So I would have picked it up at full price.

If you haven’t seen the series, it follows the adventures of Amelia McBride, who is forced to move from New York City to the suburbs after her parents divorce, living with her mother near her Aunt Tanner, a former musician. There she meets up with a rather eccentric group of kids with whom she learns to grow up while getting into some wacky hijinks. There are five tales in this graphic novel so I’ll do a quick run-down

  • “Funny Story”: Amelia must deal with the fact that her mom is going on a date…and by deal I mean letting Reggie talk her into breaking out his Captain Awesome identity (long story) and messing things up while leaving the wrong person with the crazy babysitter. Hilarity ensues.
  • “The Runaways”: It’s the first day of the new school year but a stop to get a notebook for Rhonda leads to memories for Amelia. She remembers when she and her friend Sunday tried to run away after Amelia’s parents announced their divorce. She remembers a previous trip to this store where she and her Aunt Tanner came across one of her old albums on the reduced rack, leading to Tanner thinking about her old musician days. It’s a cute little story that also features a kid name Kyle trying to apologize to our heroine for events in a previous book.
  • “The Things I Cannot Change”: My favorite story in the book. When you hear about soldiers going to war you hear about the wives being left behind (they even made a fictional series about it called Army Wives) but you seldom to never hear how it affects the kids until it’s time to film them welcoming their mother or father home. In this story Kyle asks Amelia to go with him to a dance at his school. (It’s not a date because there are a jillion nuns there.) While there she learns that a mutual friend, Joan, is struggling with her father going overseas on duty. It’s a very touching story, especially the scene where she has to say goodbye to him. It made me tear up, but the humor of Amelia and Kyle’s notadate keeps it from getting too depressing.
  • “When The Past Is A Present”: The titular story finds the gang talking about their families in light of Joan’s dad leaving and that gets Amelia thinking about her own heritage. Her mom and aunt tell her about at least one side of the family and I was disappointed that while she talks to her dad on the phone later about the other side we don’t get to hear any of it. What makes this my second favorite story, however, is how it’s done. The “flashbacks” are told through newspaper strips and old photographs while the narration is done on postcards, telegrams, notes on lined paper, and the like, making for a unique presentation that some of my cartoonist colleagues would find impressive. There’s also a cute running gag I won’t spoil. It’s these two stories alone that make the book a must-read.
  • “Hanging Out”: Or are they? When Amelia helps Rhonda on a project Reggie, Pajamaman (seriously, that’s his name, the kid with the exclamation point on his shirt on the cover) and Kyle are also there, discussing whether or not they’re hanging out. For the record Reggie and Kyle don’t get along since Reggie is Captain Awesome and Kyle is a ninja. It’s…complicated. The story is short but helps end the graphic novel quite well.

Reading When The Past Is A Present makes me even more curious about these series and some of the events that lead to this collection. I highly recommend it for kids, kids at heart, and cartoonists who like looking at other styles and ways to express a scene. Amelia does in fact rule!


About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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