Safe Havens

Safe Haven

            The Safe Havens Yearbook/ $12.95 & 150 pgs., Plan 9 Pub./sold in book stores, by mail and on the internet at

            The first joyful flower of spring struggles out of the soil only to discover it has grown at the base of a playground slide.

            "Geronimo!" shouts an unseen child at the top of that slide.

            "Oh, crud," laments the flower.

            On one level, that taste of Bill Holbrook’s The Safe Havens Yearbook may be the perfect metaphor for working one’s way through the real public school system in America.

            On several other levels, however, Holbrook’s public school does not exist in the real world. Drugs, teen pregnancy and violence cast no shadows in the halls of this school.

            Holbrook focuses on the gentle, whimsical side of life in Safe Haven, and that is certainly legitimate fodder for commentary.  In Holbrook’s case, a teenager’s struggles to find a niche in society and a self identity cast long, witty, touching, funny and insightful shadows.

            This cartoonist’s art perfectly sets his stage. Thick, simple linework speaks visual volumes about this simple, straight-forward world. Neither is he a stranger to  clever, visual sleight-of-hand to make a philosophical point:

            Witness a young boy walking in a snow-globe as a huge hand picks it up and shakes it.  Now the boy walks in snowfall and muses, "Where does all this pollen come from, anyway?"

            Holbrook’s cast also includes a teacher with more piercing than the target at an archery contest, a school mascot always in costume, and Samantha, a girl becoming a young woman.  In fact, she and all of Holbrook’s characters visually age and grow with time.

            Firmly rooted in the traditions of school and family comic strips, The Safe Havens Yearbook has nevertheless found its own unique voice, and one that entertains and intrigues.

            Isn’t it time you enrolled?

            Yearbook is highly recommended for readers of all ages. The comic strip On The Fasttrack is also produced by Holbrook.

            Review by Michael Vance

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