Review by Frank Plowright
Jimmy has a combative relationship with the many relations sharing the house where he’s growing up, most often regarding his not paying attention when it comes to his school work. However, that’s not important to him as the only thing bigger than his prodigious quiff is his towering ambition to become a wrestler, and the only way to do that is to leave home and head for the big city.
Lara Kaminoff’s approach takes a great deal from fairy tales, in which the over-confident child often finds a world beyond their knowledge an intimidating and dangerous place, but Jimmy’s confidence takes him a long way. Chapter by chapter he meets people or creatures who have advice to offer about fighting, eventually meeting his all-time hero the wonderfully named Pimento Gonzales. However, very little of what Jimmy’s told coincides with his fantasises.
While How to Pick a Fight zips along at a fair pace, it’s hampered by unimagintive art. Unless absolutely necessary Kaminoff uses nothing other than figures, and there’s little variation of the viewpoint, with people constricted by the panels. Having started that way, Kaminoff sets herself a real problem, and it leads to page after page of messy looking art. It’s a shame, not least because the design work is strong, and the spreads, especially the final pages, see her and Jimmy breaking free from the constrictions, and they are memorable.
This is a text with a message, which is to follow your dream and never let anyone turn you from that path. It has some value for the young adult readership at whom How to Pick a Fight is aimed, but whether they’ll find the book attractive enough to pick up on that is another matter.