reviewed by John E. Mitchell
North Adams Transcript
November 14, 2008
©2008 by John E. Mitchell
Howard Cruse mixes children's books with his comic strips sensibility for a parody of both in this tale of a horrid floating boy who does everything wrong and still must depend on the kindness of a circle of friends. Imagine every sitcom aimed at young urban people and then add some Dickensian nightmare personality to the center of the circle and there you have "Felix's Friends."
Felix is a particularly nasty invalid with a different sort of deficiency -- rather than being bed-ridden, he is bed-adversive. Felix floats around and he relies on the kindness of his circle of friends, who take turns holding his string and tolerating the abuse. He's a human balloon who is literally above it all and as a scornful god of helium -- or just hot air -- Felix unleashes his wrath upon the ants he looks down on in the form of personal insult.
The question is -- will the friends turn the other cheek or return the scorn? What is more important -- goodness in the face of awfulness or self-preservation? Cruse investigates these questions through a more direct one -- is it ever forgivable to be rude?
Cruse unfolds his story with cartoonish charm and much subversion. It's always been his great strength that his rounded, eye-pleasing characters betray a wicked outlook as much as good feeling. Cruse populates the story with both of these traits and delivers a picture book that might well serve as a guide to manners for big kids -- and a few adults, no doubt.
Cruse's book can be found online at the Lulu Marketplace.