A Web cartoonist and graphic novelist (Monster on the Hill, 2013) climbs aboard the crowded Wimpy Kid bandwagon with this tale of a middle schooler who belongs to a despised minority: He’s a troll.
With lots of telling and rather less showing (at least in the prose), Zarf (“rhymes with ‘barf’ ”) introduces his bridge-dwelling family, nerdy buddies Kevin (porcine scion of the famed Littlepig clan) and Chester, and troll-hating archnemesis Prince Roquefort—pint-sized tyrant of Cotswin Middle School. Zarf wryly recounts his various misadventures in a mix of prose and, on every page, one to two cartoon line illustrations with added dialogue or punch lines. These occur on the way to rescuing Roquefort’s much more lovable royal father from a tasty marinade bath prepared by a colony of 7-foot-tall Snuffweasels and then facing a huge if, as it turns out, somewhat wimpy dragon. These and other challenges help Zarf get a handle on the berserker rage issues that haunt him and afflict his kind. Depicted with droopy pointed ears, a wild shock of hair and, often, a disgruntled expression, he makes an adequate stand-in for outsiders of any stripe.
Standard-issue knockoff, with personal and racial issues presented in mildly provocative ways, some gross bits and a few amusingly tweaked folk-tale tropes. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 10-12)