This week, most Los Angeles-area kids return to school — back to assigned seats, over-stuffed backpacks, and 30-minute lunch periods. Those whirlwind lunches are particularly hard on those who don't bring food from home. They stand in line for half the period, obtain a tray brimming with beiges and browns and squeeze into a dirty, grease-slicked table to pick at whatever they can stand the smell of. Even kids who pack a lunch often have to put up with cold, congealed leftovers.
To sweeten the midday charade, one Western Massachusetts-based dad and his precocious son have turned school lunch into a time for bonding and collaboration. Each morning, Pratt Institute graphic design professor Rob Kimmel draws half a comic on a sticky note affixed to the inside of his son Ben's lunchbox. At school, in between bites, Ben completes the comic and shows it to his father in the afternoon.
Compiled on the site Wandermonster, the comics are clever and whimsical, shot through with the sort of goofy, perfect logic only children really possess.
For evidence, see the Before and After versions of both “What Happens When You Bury a Toy?” and “Where Do the Lost Socks Go?” The story of how the artistic dialogue began is a cute one, perhaps explained thoroughly enough in the short video embedded below.
Maybe you're thinking that there's something a little too perfect about this. Lunchbox comics, after all, can't help but be a preoccupation of the relatively privileged — inevitably, you might surmise, the sort who only eat chickens with names and send their kids to “rock camp.” That's incidental.
The comics may be educational and fun — for both father and son — but they also interject much-needed warmth into a school day rife with academic, emotional and social challenges.
At lunch, the apex of the chaos, a kid can feel a connection to what should be one of the most stable presences in his life, and it's pretty special that the connection can be manifested in art form.