Dreary and Naughty: Friday the 13th of February by John Lefleur & Shawn Dubin
I normally review comic books, so I want to be clear that Dreary and Naughty: Friday the 13th of February does not combine images and words in a series of narrative panels; instead, it is an illustrated book, an illustrated poem to be precise. Dreary and Naughty: Friday the 13th of February is an intentionally silly poem about two characters — Dreary and Naughty. The illustrations, however, transform the light tone of the poem into a touching story. That they are able to take this narrative poem and transform it into a little, strange love story, is impressive.
From what I can tell, this book is the third in a series of books about two high school students named Dreary and Naughty. Dreary is a skeleton boy dressed in a post-Seattle grunge style: big shoes, rolled-up jeans, hoodie, scarf, messenger bag, and cap. His cap and bag have skulls on them, the arms of his hoodie have printed bones, and his hoodie has words on the front that mysteriously change from picture to picture with no explanation. His best friend/girlfriend is Naughty, an alternative, goth girl with large black boots, a long black coat, two small horns, and a pointed devil’s tail poking out from underneath her coat. She has a provocative, or Naughty, smile on her face, and Dreary’s mouth is frequently turned down in a frown.
The narrative poem is told in the first person from the point of view of Dreary’s grandmother, a skeleton fortune-teller. She tells of a year when Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday, the day after Friday the 13th. The main story is about the exchange of gifts as Dreary tries to think up the perfect item to give Naughty. My favorite picture is of the artisan Dreary sitting alone at his desk in his room as he thinks. The lines of the poem preceding the image are also my favorites because they describe Dreary as the young, struggling artist in high school:
Here in his lair,
He’d paint, draw, and write,
Creating his works
Well into the night.
Comics of critters,
Stories of afar.
For a year he conceived,
Since last Valentine’s Day,
A handcrafted gift
That was well on its way.
Of course the gift he thinks up will appeal perfectly to the character of Naughty since it’s “A choker of leather / With a silver skull.” We are not surprised to find that “Naughty loved jewelry / With a dark gothic look,” so Dreary gets to work, and we watch him create this perfect gift. The rest of the story is about his giving her the gift, and her struggling to think up an equally appropriate and creative gift for her artistic boyfriend.
The story is as simple as that, but its simplicity is appropriate: It allows the art to tell the story of two young teenagers in love, and that visual story is sweet without being sappy. I certainly enjoyed this book, particularly since I didn’t have any prior expectations and was able to be pleasantly surprised by its uniqueness.
This thin little book doesn’t take long to read and does not strive to be some grand work of art — instead, it’s meant to be a unique work that you’ll want to leave out for friends to see because you know they’ll be impressed that you’ve found a quirky book that is a very cool discovery — a real “find” — on your part. And when they see it, they’ll want their own copy. Give your friend a piece of paper with the author’s name and book title written down, because if you loan this book out, you probably won’t be seeing it again.