Review by Ian Keogh
Just considering the idea before cracking the covers, a junior school based version of Sherlock Holmes doesn’t strike as conceptual gold, and learning that for no good reason Watson is a talking dog in a world of ordinary kids hardly bolsters the prospects. Imagine, however, you’re a kid who’s never heard of Sherlock Holmes, the target audience in fact, and look at Kid Sherlock through those eyes instead. What you’re getting is a set of clever stories about a likeable, smart kid, with a sense of decency and willing to help others in a set of funny adventures any kid can relate to.
When Emma has her favourite doll stolen in school, a mysterious tripper’s on the loose, or someone’s responsible for an unusual smell in the classroom Sherlock has the deductive skills to identify the culprits. Justin Phillips makes sure this occurs in a way kids can figure out because the stories are constructed to teach kids to follow visual clues as well as what people are saying. While it doesn’t greatly impact on the plots, Phillips also amuses himself by dropping in references to Sherlock Holmes books, via the phrases used, Sherlock’s oversized deerstalker hat, a head teacher named Lestrade, and best of all, older brother Mycroft. Watson as a dog? As well as varying the visuals, perhaps how Phillips sees him is a viable interpretation of the loyal and protective character.
Sean Gregory Miller’s cartooning is exactly what’s needed to appeal to youngsters, open and engaging. His characters move well and because Sherlock needs to be detached and distant, yet also sympathetic what appears simple personality definition needs to straddle a fine line. The one page gag strips aren’t as well crafted as the longer stories, but still nicely drawn by Miller.
For adults, perhaps even more impressive than Miller’s cartooning, is the way Phillips succinctly transfers the brilliantly contrary personality of Sherlock Holmes to an elementary school (a joke he’s not above making). Sherlock is a loner, shunned by the other kids, yet that doesn’t bother him as he’s at home with his isolated pursuits. In an era when children are constantly encouraged to join in or participate, is this a good thing? Discuss. What doesn’t need discussed is that Kid Sherlock is a good thing.