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Billy Hazelnuts    by Tony Millionaire order for
Billy Hazelnuts
by Tony Millionaire
Order:  USA  Can
Fantagraphics, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Tony Millionaire combines elements of fantasy, literature, and humor to produce Billy Hazelnuts, a quirky and amusing tale of fantastical adventure and delight. Brief but engaging, the three chapters of this graphic novel quickly bring readers into an imaginative world like that found in such books as The Neverending Story and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The mice of the house put him together and give him life (mouse will power is amazingly strong), but they give him bugs for brains and no eyes. Scaring away Becky's mom and fighting off the ferocious cat, Billy retreats from the house into the barn after being accosted with a shovel by Becky's mother. Taking a much-begrudged break from her ingenious experiments, Becky visits the barn to fetch milk, only to discover the curious creature. After examining him, Becky removes the flies and replaces them with hazelnuts. She repairs his wounds from the recent fight and ultimately befriends young Billy.

But the inquisitive Billy cannot stay in one place for too long. As the moon sets over the horizon, Billy runs away in hopes of finding out where the moon is hiding. Becky follows suit and the two set off on an adventure that will have them sifting through a junkyard of broken and cracked planets, fighting robot pirates and hitching rides from whales.

Millionaire's whimsical storytelling provides readers of all ages with an entertaining graphic novel that captures imaginations and puts bemused smiles on faces. Billy Hazelnuts' determination and demeanor as he rampages through this new land evokes memories of Don Quixote, while other parts of his adventure evoke Moby Dick and the biblical tale of Noah's Ark - all, of course, with a unique and interesting twist.

The black and white art provokes a nostalgic atmosphere of flights of fancy and sketches of fairy tales one may have come across when reading such stories as a child. The most haunting feature within Millionaire's drawings is his rendering of eyes. Characters have blank pupils that could unnerve readers if the artist did not go to great lengths to color in his characters with other physical and personal attributes.

Though Billy Hazelnuts manages to navigate collective events that are fairly random, Millionaire's talented storytelling makes this graphic novel a gem.

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