Review: Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption

I’m hesitant to tell you about this book in fear that I’ll ruin the experience. The thing is… I kind of have to, but before I do I will say that Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption has been one of the most entertaining books I’ve read this year. It took me back to my childhood and made me look forward to sharing it and books like it with my son one day. The story follows Pablo and Jane. I assume their siblings, but it’s never explicitly said to us. It’s a rainy day and they’re run out of things to do so they decide to go exploring. Their parents are completely cool with this which every parent should be. They head to a creepy old house that is the center of a lot of local urban legends. Once inside they find a mouse with a mustache and a one-eyed cat. Eventually it’s revealed that both animals can talk and that they’re enemies. Stuff happens and they end up on a dimension traveling hot air balloon trying to get back home.

PABLOJANEThis is where the story goes from good to great. For the bulk of the story it becomes a scavenger hunt on the page. If you’re confused, I will say two words and you’ll understand… Where’s Waldo? There you go, now you see why this book is so wonderful. The story requires you to then find the missing pieces of the hot air balloon so that our characters can get home. Frankly, it’s brilliant and I loved it.

The story itself was good. I didn’t expect to go on a scavenger hunt, but when it hit… I got excited. I haven’t read a book like that since Where’s Waldo was popular and so it threw me back to my childhood instantly. Up until that point I had been reading it to my newborn. Obviously I stopped reading, but it really made me realize how much cool stuff I get to expose him to and Pablo & Jane is now on that list.

The artwork is wonderful. Not only does it tell a story when it’s story time, but José Domingo manages to create wonderful pages. Each page is far more complicated than other scavenger hunt books, but also inviting at the same time. I had a problem finding levers for some reason. Couldn’t see them. Really frustrated me in the best possible way. There’s a curve of difficulty and that was great to see rather than just a cluttered page and more things to find. It was different from the aforementioned OG of the genre, but also better. Domingo improves on the structure.

What makes this book stand out is that it could have been either or, but instead it’s both. A scavenger hunt would have been fine on its own, but the fact that there’s a story to go with it and that the story gives you the motivation to find everything is great. On the flipside, I would have been fine with the story. The characters were instantly enjoyable and you really want to follow them on their adventure, it just turns out that you get to help them on it as well. This was a fun book for me because of the nostalgia, but also the quality. And if you have a kid, this is a great book to share with them.

Score: 5/5

Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption Creator: José Domingo Publisher: Flying Eye Books/Nobrow Press Price: $19.95 Release Date: 10/20/15 Format: Padded Hardcover; Print