Remember "Little Golden Books?" If you’re between the ages of 30 and, oh, 70 or so, you should. If you don’t, they’re a very long running series of slim, inexpensive children’s books with subjects ranging from centuries-old fairy tales to Disney and Pixar tie-ins and featuring stories that are intended to both delight children and spur their reading skills on to new levels.
"Grandpa Won’t Wake Up" looks like one of these, but it sure as heck isn’t. It will, however, delight those of us with a fondness for absurd, and slightly morbid, humor.
Written by Simon Max Hill and co-plotted/drawn by Shannon Wheeler, freshly minted Eisner Award winner for his book I Thought You Would Be Funnier and creator of the long-running Too Much Coffee Man comic book/syndicated comic strip, the book starts out innocently enough as two children attempt to wake their assumed-to-be-sleeping grandfather, who had promised to take them to the park that day. It almost immediately becomes apparent to the reader that Grandpa is, in fact, quite dead. This either doesn’t occur to the two children (or the several adults they, at various times, enlist to aid them) or they simply don’t care. It really could go either way as they seem to be enjoying the situation. The result is a series of increasingly absurd, and at times funnily offensive to some (not me), attempts at waking the dead man.
As a fan of Shannon Wheeler’s work since Too Much Coffee Man appeared in Dark Horse Presents in the late 90s, and a daily visitor to his website for his online strips (www.tmcm.com), I was delighted to see his name attached to this when I first heard of it. Here his art is in line with his cartoons that frequently appear in The New Yorker magazine, as opposed to his TMCM comics and books, and fans that are only familiar with his comic book work will be pleased to see this side of his art.
While I am not familiar with Simon Max Hill, it’s obvious that he and Wheeler have a fondness for the Little Golden Book style and Grandpa reads much like a loving, if slightly deranged, homage to both the style of the series and the age group it is aimed at. This book is definitely not something you should give to your kids, unless you want them to be disturbed, but it’s something you should share with everyone you know who used to be a kid. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it as much as I have.