Little kids at heart: ‘Blue, Barry and Pancakes’ authors dish out madcap adventures
By ERIN ROLL
For Montclair Local
Jason Patterson of Montclair, one of the two co-authors of the “Blue, Barry and Pancakes” graphic novels for kids (and kids at heart), has a vivid memory of when he and co-author Dan Abdo were doing an event at Watchung Booksellers.
It was outdoors, on the green between the bookshop and the train station.
The kids in the audience had been sitting attentively on the grass, listening to the story.
Patterson then started drawing the characters on an easel. He turned around and saw that all the kids were gathered around him, watching him draw. It was the process of watching the characters take shape that really drew them in.
“Kids are just so engaged in drawing and creativity,” he said.
Abdo added: “All kids love to draw. Until something happens, and they feel like they’re not good enough [at it].”
Abdo and Patterson’s “Blue, Barry and Pancakes” series is about three friends — Blue the worm, Barry the frog and Pancakes the bunny — and their madcap adventures.
A balloon rocket actually travels into space. An ice cream sundae contest goes horribly awry. A search for a runaway beach ball becomes a breakneck adventure.
The books are like Rube Goldberg machines, with one oddball thing leading to another.
Pancakes is a big, cheerful, live-in-the-moment character, while Barry is more anxious and fretful. And Blue is an artistic worm with a rich inner life that his friends don’t always know about.
Kids love the silly stories and the fun, engaging characters, while parents are happy that their children have found books they love to read.
Abdo and Patterson’s latest book in the series, “Enter the Underground Throwdown,” is due out later this year from Macmillan.
Besides the “Blue, Barry and Pancakes” series, the duo has also authored “Barb the Last Berserker.”
Outside of comics and illustration, Abdo and Patterson have had long careers in animation; currently, they are animation directors with the studio Hornet.
Originally from Montpelier, Vermont, where they were best friends in high school, both attended the Rhode Island College of Art and Design and eventually moved to Brooklyn to start their careers.
Home for a time was a converted coffin factory in Williamsburg. “Everything was a grand adventure. We didn’t know what was going on, but we had each other’s backs,” Abdo said.
Graphic novels have been identified as a good genre for kids who are either beginning readers or are older but reluctant readers. Patterson said he and Abdo were both late readers as children.
Comics have that visual element that makes up a huge part of storytelling, Patterson said.
Both loved to read comics as kids. “Calvin and Hobbes” was a particular favorite; Patterson cited the strip’s rich, imaginative worlds and the complex inner lives of the titular boy and tiger as part of its appeal.
Abdo makes his home in Montpelier, while Patterson now lives in Montclair. “There’s so many people from New York and Brooklyn — it feels like an extension of Brooklyn,” Patterson said of the township.
Abdo, for his part, said he is always excited to visit Montclair, and there is the prospect of being able to do live events here again soon.
“Kids in our lives are just as rich and deep as the adults in our lives,” he said.
“We totally kind of have this inner kid in us,” Patterson said. “We’re trying to keep up with them.”