Little Vampire contains three stories for all ages: “Little Vampire Goes to School”, “Little Vampire Does Kung Fu”, and “Little Vampire and the Canine Defenders Club”. The first two were previously published individually in 2003, but the latter, the most heart-warming, is newly translated.
They’re as straightforward as their titles suggest, with charm that permeates situations any kid can relate to. In the first, the Little Vampire wants to go to school, so his ghost and monster friends make it possible. He’s sad because there aren’t any other kids around, only an odd-looking demon dog named Phantomato (because he’s red).
Through an entertaining set of circumstances, Little Vampire makes a human friend, and the two pass notes, learn together, and play. Each twist is surprising but plausible… once you accept monster logic. There’s always another imaginative revelation on the next page, sometimes touching depth or even a message.
Joann Sfar’s environments are incredibly entertaining in the way he’s clearly thought about the many baroque details that enliven the setting. The lead characters are drawn simply, mainly circles, which keep them accessible. They look as though anyone could draw them, but few have Sfar’s deceptively invisible skill.
The second story tackles bullying. The answers aren’t the usual pathetic ones; instead, the kids fantasize about violence, as children do, for a permanent solution to the problem. The actual resolution is much more inspirational and weird, based on confidence-building and reached after consulting with a cat-rabbi who lives in a painting. Lots of monkeys are also involved.
The third story begins with dogs seeking sanctuary in the monsters’ haunted house. They’ve escaped from the secret lab of a bad guy who experiments on them. In trying to find them good homes, Little Vampire spends more time with Michael’s grandparents, who are nicely comforting.
Overall, the tales are simple but with bite underneath, which makes them wonderful to share among different generations. This book is recommended, especially for fans of Scary Godmother. For additional vampire stories by Sfar aimed at an older audience, check out Vampire Loves. Greg McElhatton covers some of the series’ American publishing history in his review. (The publisher provided a review copy.)