Comic Belief

by Catherine Curan
Time Out New York Kids, 1/15/2008

Sara Varon is living proof that watching cartoons can be good for a kid.

Now 36, the Brooklyn-based graphic novelist is charming children and critics with vivid, appealingly simple drawings that recall her childhood obsessions, Underdog and Tennessee Tuxedo. Her latest book, Robot Dreams (First Second, $17), showcases her knack for visual narrative. Eschewing dialogue, Varon relies on images to tell the story of a robot, a dog (pictured) and a friendship gone awry. The book is aimed at children eight and older, but the sophisticated treatment of loss and refreshingly unsentimental conclusion appeal to adults as well. “I don’t think about my audiences,” Varon says of her creative process. “I do what I like. Maybe I’m my audience.”

She began leaving the words out of her stories at the request of Scholastic, which picked up her 2002 M.F.A. thesis for Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts. That became Chicken and Cat, published in 2006; a sequel, in which the pair launch a housekeeping business, is due out this fall. The tale of a jet-setting cupcake is in the works.

Varon finds the focus on images freeing: “I’m not a very good writer,” she claims. Her storytelling abilities lead us, respectfully, to disagree.