Book Review: Glen Keane’s Adam Raccoon

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Glen Keane has probably touched your life, whether you recognize the name or not.

If you were a kid in the early 90s, you probably watched his animation of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, the titular Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin himself in Aladdin. You may have seen his newer independent short films Duet, Nephtali, and Dear Basketball, and he was the driving force behind the development of Disney’s Tangled.

What you may have missed are his childrens books.

Originally published in 1987, Keane’s Adam Raccoon books are fun and furry parables for children, bursting with Keane’s exuberant drawings. Drawn in raw, organic pencil sketches, the mischievous raccoon and his friends have all the expressiveness of Keane’s Disney animation. Keane had reconnected with his faith a few years before working on these books, and the joy he brings to the books shows his eagerness to dive deeper into stories and themes from scripture.

Over the course of eight volumes, Adam builds a flying machine, encounters a fearsome giant, runs away to the circus, and deals with foul play in a soccer tournament… but King Aren, the lion, watches out for Adam each step of the way and patiently endures Adam’s missteps. Their world is bustling with animal extras with personalities of their own.

The books are being republished by Green Egg Media. It’s a lovely, colorful bundle of hardcovers, and I have already gushed over Keane’s artistry—but what really impressed me is how textured these stories are, considering their nature as picture-book parables. Taken at face value, a parent could easily read the books as straight-forward fables with a single moral, but both the text and art are full of prompts for more textured conversations about life, truth and scripture.

Have you encountered the Adam Raccoon books before? What do you value in a children’s picture book? And how has Glen Keane’s art touched your life?

Leave your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll select one comment for a giveaway of the ENTIRE SET, courtesy of the publisher!

Click here to learn more about Adam Raccoon!

Jonny Jimison is a talented cartoonist and graphic novelist. In addition to a long history of web-based cartoons, he's the author of Dragon Lord Saga series of graphic novels, including Martin & Marco and The River Fox. Jonny lives and works in Jacksonville, Florida.


15 Comments

  1. David Jansson

    I haven’t ever heard of Glen Keane before, but it looks like I am definitely familiar with his work! These books sound really neat, and I’m curious about them.

    For me, I value the text in a children’s book. Having had to read many many books to my kids over these past few years, I feel like I can immediately identify a stinker. There’s something about the bad verse or lack of poetic imagery or imagination of story that stands out to me, whereas there are others that I can read over and over again without getting tired. But, alas, my kids are not nearly so discerning in what they choose…

    However, one thing that my kids have taught me about children’s books is to slow down and enjoy the art. I am a text-focused person: the story and the language are what matter to me (along with how quickly I can move to bedtime), so I tend to bounce through a book at a brisk pace. But when I watch my son read the books on his own, I see how he reads the lines and then lingers for minutes on each page, pondering the pictures and looking around at every detail. The pictures are every bit as important as the story itself. It’s fun to watch him take 15 minutes to meander his way through a book. I’m curious to see how he would enjoy Glen Keane’s work.

  2. Hannah Andrews

    What a lovely review. Makes me want to run out and buy an Adam Raccoon book right now. I vaguely remember Adam Raccoon from my childhood. I think we had the one about soccer. Anyway, I certainly know well all the Disney movies Mr Keane had a hand in! I watched Aladdin countless times with my siblings. I’m glad I can now appreciate the artist of both!

  3. Elsie

    It’s been years since I’ve thought about these books! We had several of them growing up, and I found them extremely engrossing. This is wonderful that they’re being republished! I’d like to introduce them to my own son now.

  4. Katie Bruno

    I grew up with a few Adam Raccoon books in my house! They are still there at my parents — I’ll have to hunt them down for my boys to read when we go there next!

  5. The One True Stickman

    @theonetruestickman

    Both Glenn Keane and Adam Racoon sound familiar, but I don’t think I’ve actually known about them properly until now – thanks!

    The thing that stands out to me in children’s books that I love and have stood the test of time are both the artist’s style and the quality of the text – as David mentioned above, now raising kids of my own it’s a joy to read some books over and over but others fall flat. (Still haven’t gotten tired of “Who’s in the Forest?” or “Each Peach Pear Plum”.) The first thing I see is the art, though – I gravitate toward distinctive styles that have a level of realism and detail but also a sense of whimsy or fantasy that makes them unique – Tomie dePaola, Robert McCloskey, Byron Barton, or Jan Brett as random examples. I can go either way between line drawings and great use of colors, but don’t have much patience for mediocre in-betweens.

  6. Hannah

    I researched Keane and his work a number of years ago when I became interested in animation. A really cool man, and very good at what he does. I heard about this series but have never found a copy to read! Happy they’re being republished!

  7. HC Sinclair

    Wow! We actually LOVE Adam Raccoon and all the stories! I didn’t know of his Disney connections (shame on me since we are in the heart of The land of Disney!) but makes it really cool to know that Keane has a hand in that industry! My younger daughter happened to find several of Adam Raccoon books in my in-laws’ church library when she was 3yrs old and (now 6) still loves to read them whenever we go visit! My MIL (who runs the library) went in search of all the old volumes to replace the lost ones over the years for my child!  I bought one at a thrift store and we love it. Love love love!!

  8. Bethany Wright

    Oh, this makes me so very happy!! I have two original print Adam Raccoon books that I saved my own childhood and use with teaching children 20-25 years later. To hear they are being republished just made my night, especially since I have never read the full series. These books are flat out quality.

  9. Nathan

    I definitely read these as a child, but had completely forgotten about them until now. I will definitely have to share these with my kids.

  10. Linda Rogers

    @misslinda

    I am not familiar with Adam, but I AM familiar with Glen Keene’s work on so many other classics from my childhood. The Adam Raccoon books sound very interesting!

  11. Andrew Warner

    I grew up with my dad reading these books to me. They were such a key part of my childhood but something I thought I only experienced or only knew about. I am blown away that someone else knows of these incredible stories and the beautiful artwork in them. I am a father of two now and my boys are at the same edge where I was first introduced to Keen’s tales of the lovable Adam Raccoon and good King Aren. I hope that they also will have the memories and the influence in their lives that I had from the books. As a kid, the flying machine was always my favorite. As an adult, the picture of the gospel in Forever Falls is the most meaningful. Thanks for passing along the great news. I am looking forward to seeing the reprints.

  12. Shandon

    @shandon

    I grew up with Adam Racoon! The story of Adam leaving his king to run away to the circus left a deep impression on me as a child. I remember my mother and I in a long discussion about how Adam’s decision paralleled my own decisions, and she used the opportunity to teach me about God’s grace and forgiveness in spite of my sinfulness. It was wonderful – and the artwork was delightful as well. I can see that the parables and shades of meaning in the stories would be even more clear to me now. I’d love to introduce these to my nieces and nephews, as well as my own kids when/if they ever arrive.

  13. Aaron Hogan

    Adam Raccoon is new to me, but I’m thankful to have come across him here. I’m looking forward to learning more about these stories and introducing them to our kids.

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