Pullbox Reviews: Stanley & the Forgotten Forest- Some Halloween giggles for youngsters and their parents

Just as Halloween arrives, Chester Chipmunk claims to have solved the mystery of why a nearby woodland is known as the Forgotten Forest. His friends are sure that this is just another of his elaborate pranks. Billy Billington is going along with it though, and those two never team up!

Reluctantly, Stanley Squirrel and his other friends agree to go along to learn the truth. Only what they find in the forest is far more weird and frightening than how it got its name!

When you’ve got a friend like Baby Fang, whose favorite holiday is Halloween because of all the free candy, what can you do to keep him under control? The simple answer is that you don’t even try, otherwise you’ll miss out on all the crazy hijinks! And candy! And houses that are made of candy! But whatever you do, stay out of the Forgotten Forest because anyone who goes in…

What were we talking about?

Right, the Forgotten Forest! Look, we all know where we’re heading. Stanley, Baby Fang, Belanna, Billy and the gang are going into the forest. Hijinks will ensue, and because this is Storm King’s “Storm Kids” label, everyone is going to come back out healthy and ready for another adventure. The scares are more fun than spooky, and everyone will have learned a valuable lesson.

The trick to writing a good “all ages” story is to make sure that it’s readable for anyone who picks it up. You’ve got to behave for the kids, nothing too shocking or intense, while still delivering on some of the spookiness you’re promising in a series coming from the minds of Team Carpenter/King. You’ve also got to come up with something that isn’t going to drive the grown ups nuts while they’re are reading to (or with… we don’t judge) their kids. Jeff Blake and Paul Storrie put together a story that managed to give me enough chuckles to keep me going, complete with a witch & the mysterious beasts of Bunnyburrow Manor. The script by Storrie moves fast, a must when you’re looking to keep the youngsters entertained long enough to get to the end. The scares are easy to digest, more humorous than scary… another must if reading-time lines up at all with bedtime.

Likewise, the artwork by Dave Alvarez, with colors by Jeff Balke, is bright and sunny, full of colorful characters having whacky adventures. Visually, the adventures of Stanley and friends would look right at home in any animated children’s show, with an easy-to-follow style. Alvarez keeps the panel layouts moving along and makes sure that every page has something going on that will hold a reader’s interest. Balke, fills in the blanks with a cartoony color scheme that’s all pastel forests and sunny clearings. Visually, Stanley and friends are living in a world that’s sugary enough to satisfy young readers, without repeated trips to the dentist.

As always, there has to be a nod of respect, maybe even a virtual high five, to letterer Janice Chiang. In all of her work, the dialogue is easy to follow across the page. In a comic written for youngsters, that’s even more important as young eyes tend to wander (note: if you happen to be under the age of ten and you’re reading this, I mean absolutely no offense… also, wow! Seriously? You’re ten and taking the time to read a comic review? Respect!). Chiang lays out the word balloons, keeping clear of the action and maybe even having a little fun with sound effects that look like they’re spun from cotton candy.

Going in, know that Stanley and the Forgotten Forest is a kid’s book through and through, but that doesn’t have to mean an ordeal for adults. It’s a fast read, tailor-made for attention spans young and old. For anyone with kids who like a little spookiness without the night terrors, and anyone looking for a new addition to the reading time rotation, this is a top-notch addition.

Final Score: 12 out of 13 witchy gumdrops

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