The Adventures of Kung Fu Robot: How to Make a Peanut Butter, Jelly, & Kung Fu Sandwich is the first book in a new series by writer, artist, and Kid Rocket Studios founder Jason Bays. The story focuses on nine-year-old Marvin, a chronic worrier, and his friend Kung Fu Robot, as the latter attempts to construct the only thing strong enough to conquer his Kung Fu appetite… a peanut butter, jelly, & Kung Fu sandwich. Throughout the story, the two confront the shadowy ninja minions of the nefarious Kung Pow Chicken, who is scheming to release his own PBJ-powered monstrosity upon the city.
If that opening paragraph doesn’t sound silly enough on its own to capture the interest of your six- to twelve-year-old, then by all means please keep reading.
As a graphic novel for young readers, Kung Fu Robot is a perfect blend of comic action and downright goofiness. Any initial comparisons someone might make between this and Dav Pilkey’s Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series miss the mark. Kung Fu Robot is a full-on graphic novel; more Raina Telgemeir, not so much Jeff Kinney. The story is fun. The artwork is beautiful, a retro-futuristic art deco for 21st century kids. The colors are bright, simple, and minimal. They never detract or distract from the foreground art nor from the loaded backgrounds of the various panels. The aesthetic of Kung Fu Robot is stunning enough to stand on its own merits (I picked up a Kung Fu Robot from the Kid Rocket Studios booth at last year’s Planet Comicon, almost a full year before the graphic novel was published, and it has hung prominently in my 12-year-old son’s bedroom since).
This is a book that parents will want to at least thumb through, if not read for themselves, whenever the kids put it down. Again, the art is amazing and every panel is worth investigating. The story is fun and made me chuckle out loud in spots. Don’t get me wrong, it’s elementary school humor, but it is a quick, fun little read. It may just be me, but for whatever reason, I heard/read Kung Fu Robot’s lines in my head as if they had been spoken by a karate-loving Elvis Presley. Your mileage may vary on that one.
What really sets Kung Fu Robot apart from other graphic novels aimed toward young readers is that it pairs two pieces of entertainment that 21st century kids love. Throughout the graphic novel, readers will find a music note, like the one on the right of the page in the photo above. I call these “doodads.” I’m sure the artist and publisher had another, more technical name for them. By downloading the free mobile app, readers can scan the doodads throughout the book by using the app’s “Kung Fu Vision” to play sounds appropriate to where they are in the story. Using the example above, scanning the Grocery Store doodad causes the app to play a very Muzak-sounding version of Kung Fu Robot’s personal theme song.
Other doodads provide various effects, some even allowing users to mix their own theme music. Folks looking to read the story without purchasing the book can do so through the app itself, allowing users to take the story on the go. The first chapter of Kung Fu Robot is included in the free download. Additional chapters are available for purchase. Also included in the app are an assortment of games; again, most are locked behind a pay wall, which is common for a free app. The game included in the app download is a ninja-themed version of whack-a-mole titled, appropriately, “Whack-A-Ninja.” Users can unlock content piece-by-piece, or unlock all of the content on the app for only $1.99.
The Adventures of Kung Fu Robot: How to Make a Peanut Butter, Jelly, & Kung Fu Sandwich is an excellent introduction to what I hope will be many more books in the series. The phrase “peanut butter, jelly, and Kung Fu sandwich” has already made its way into my family’s shared language… it’s the only way my seven-year-old daughter take her PBJ now. The book is available online or wherever books are sold. The app is available for download both on iOS devices and at the Google Play store.