The Arizona Water Bar

Tales from the Desert Southwest

Fiction - Graphic Novel/Comic
170 Pages
Reviewed on 01/24/2021
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Author Biography

International award-winning cartoonist and author Drew Aquilina, RLA, CLARB, has been entertaining audiences nationwide for years. A Connecticut native, Drew graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture while creating the cartoon strip Green Pieces©.

As a professional cartoonist for over years, Drew, a proud member of the National Cartoonist Society, currently serving as the NCS Treasurer and Cornelius supporter in the NCS Los Angeles chapter, now enjoys international award-winning status for his strip. Green Pieces: Green From the Pond Up has been named Comics/Graphic Novel of the Year at the London, Paris, New York, New England and San Francisco and Green Book Festivals. Drew’s inaugural cartoon compilation also was named USA "Best Books 2011" Awards, Environment/Green Book of the Year and was awarded the Humor Finalist distinction by the 2012 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards, National Indie Excellence Awards and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Green Pieces: Green From the Pond Up has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide to date. Who knew being green could be so hilarious?

Drew also continues to produce a daily Green Pieces strip at www.GreenPiecesCartoons.com.

In addition to his cartooning and publishing prowess, Drew is an accomplished cartoonist instructor and humorist speaker, instructing and entertaining school classrooms and adult conferences nationwide. Aquilina lives in Paradise Valley, AZ with his wife, Lisa, and their own version of Green Pieces.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

The most difficult writing challenge to meet successfully is one often associated with children’s books, but involving even more demanding requisites when aspiring to please a more mature audience. That is, a graphic novel or comic strip series. The Arizona Water Bar by Drew Aquilina, while most accurately described as a comic strip collection, exceeds the creative requirements of most children’s books, engages one beyond the expectations of many graphic novels, and certainly entertains its delighted fans at a level attained only by the best cartoonists. As said, the challenges are great. One must have a compelling story. One must create encapsulated pictures of exquisite composition. And, one must have a piercingly perfect sense of humor.

Drew Aquilina fulfills each expectation superbly in his graphic presentation, The Arizona Water Bar. The story: A teenage desert pack rat, Flo Webb, defies her parents’ expectations to open the first Water Bar in Northern Maricopa County, AZ. Her clientele: An assemblage of the most beguiling, drily hilarious indigenous creatures one could possibly imagine, including a cynical, claustrophobic tortoise, a squeamish, far-sighted snake, and a woefully pregnant quail who gives birth behind the bar. Any of these would be captivating as described, but as drawn with impeccable artistry by the author, they are impressively expressive, indelibly endearing, and insistently entertaining. And the cherry atop this delicious desert dessert? A piercingly perfect sense of humor scripted by one who knows his audience - both childlike and mature. A cartoon collection for the consummate comic aficionado.

Bruce Arrington

The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest by Drew Aquilina is a graphic comic book about the characters who inhabit the hot and dry desert. There is Hayden the tortoise, a few pack rats, a few quail, a burrowing owl, and even a roadrunner, among others. Flo Webb sets up a local water bar for the local critters so they can come and have a drink and socialize. Intrepid young packrat and Arizona native Flo Webb refuses to take over the 2000-year-old historic family midden. Although she risks the wrath of her proud and stubborn father, Flo is her own woman and is determined to break free from the pack. Stumbling across drip irrigation lines abandoned by local homeowners, Flo opens a water bar in the vast dry desert. Transformed into a small businesswoman, Flo fosters and engages her wildlife customers through her new entrepreneurial endeavor, thereby providing an evolutionary step forward for all desert animals. Follow the ensuing adventures resulting from the seemingly unlikely social interaction among predator and prey.

There is plenty of humor in each strip, just as you would enjoy reading your own favorite comic. The interactions between the characters are fast and lively, often poking a little fun at us humans along the way. But it’s always in good taste that readers of all ages will enjoy. I found myself getting to know and appreciate the characters and the roles they play. This book is both written and illustrated by Drew Aquilina, revealing a deep talent by this author in both story ability and artistic expertise. The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest by Drew Aquilina is a comic book you’ll enjoy reading and passing on to other readers, young and old. Highly recommended.

Rabia Tanveer

The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest by Drew Aquilina is a brilliant new comic book with a story that will hook you right in. The story follows the young and strong-willed Flo Webb. She belongs to a traditional family, yet she is not afraid to break free and become the person she is proud to be. This is why she moves forward and opens her water bar in a desert. She has no idea that she will be opening her doors to species of all kinds, and some of them might not get along. When prey and predators interact suddenly, things are about to get spicy. Flo is a smart rat, she has a plan for everything, but even she is not ready for what the future has in store for her. Will she be able to survive? Or will The Arizona Water Bar go under?

The illustrations are out of this world, and I believe Drew Aquilina gave 100% into making sure the pictures were worth every word he wrote. The Arizona Water Bar is far more different than how simple it appears to be in the first few pages. The plot thickens slowly, but surely, which is why I loved this comic so much. The illustrations add depth to the story and bring it to life. I love how simple each snippet was yet very entertaining at the same time. From the pregnant quail Claire’s need to nest behind the bar to Flo’s family drama, the author adds just enough action to make the story interesting and keep the interest of readers. What I love about this fantastic book the most is that it is suitable for readers of all ages.

Jacob R LaMar

The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest is a graphic novel written by Drew Aquilina. Running about 170 pages, the book is a series of tales that center around a bar that serves water to animals on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. The book begins by introducing us to the characters involved. From quails to tortoises and from rats to roadrunners, The Arizona Water Bar includes many desert-dwelling critters and the stories from their everyday lives. The story focuses on Flo Webb, a packrat that has no interest in taking over her family’s 2000-year-old rat midden; she instead chooses to open the water bar, which may just serve the finest water in Maricopa County.

The Arizona Water Bar is full of illustrations, as one would expect from a graphic novel, and while it is pretty simple art, the pictures add to the overall experience of each story with their view of desert life. Each tale is written like a sitcom on the page with much of the dialogue penned with the purpose of setting up a one-liner. While I could imagine some readers being unappreciative of the silly nature of the humor in this book, I personally enjoyed many of the jokes. Humor of this nature is not simply a dink-and-dunk sort of joke, but one that shows how many different ways a simple concept can be made complex. To put it plainly, I would recommend this book to the young souls who like to giggle. I know I did.

K.C. Finn

The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest is a work of fiction in the graphic novel, environmental and green themes sub-genres. It is aimed at all ages and was penned by author and cartoonist Drew Aquilina. The book tells the story of Flo Webb, an enthusiastic and savvy young pack rat who opens a water bar after discovering an abandoned water source in the dry expanse of the desert. As her misadventures with her new business continue, Flo realizes that she’s shaking up the hierarchy of hunter and hunted amongst the desert animals, but would that really be the worst thing in the world?

Author Drew Aquilina has crafted a delightful and insightful cartoon adventure for the amusement of all its readers, and one which also offers a very important message amidst its quirky plot lines. One of the things which I especially enjoyed about this work was its sense of whimsy and of taking things easy, but at the same time delivering a heartfelt tale of a woman chasing her passions and dreams. This balance drives the plot forward with its loveable characters, whilst also masterfully unveiling the green and environmental themes in a naturalistic and impactful manner. Overall, I would definitely recommend The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest to fans of entertaining and easily accessed reading material, but also to those seeking a moral message for the future, and one that can easily be passed onto others in a less preachy format than your average environmental book.

Tiffany Ferrell

Flo is a teenage packrat who dreams of more than inheriting her family’s 2000-year-old midden. Upsetting her father, she makes the choice to leave home and start a water bar in northern Arizona. She meets a lot of new friends who help her set up her business in the desert. Hayden is a tortoise who never leaves his shell and helps Flo by watching the bar at all times. Flo then creates a no hunting rule and she hires her mountain lion friend Kitty to keep the customers in check. During her time as bartender of the refreshing Arizona establishment, she encounters many events and occurrences. Her quail friend Claire gave birth to her babies behind the bar, and then she recalls the one time a group of penguins Fed-exed themselves to the water bar for a vacation. She knows that her family wants her to go into the family business, but Flo is happy with her water bar and the amazing new creatures she meets.

I thought The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest was a fun and witty read that immediately caught my attention. It’s an adorable story about a packrat who wants to break from tradition and be her own person. The main character is very well written and relatable as are the rest of the characters in the story. Each one has a unique personality that makes them stand out from one another. It’s very laid back and comical with some nods to well-known shows and movies like Casablanca and Cheers. Honestly, when I first started reading The Arizona Water Bar, the first thing I thought of was an animal version of Cheers. Overall, it’s a great book. Author Drew Aquilina has created a great bunch of comedic characters that I look forward to reading more about in the future.

Joe Wisinski

The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest by Drew Aquilina is a story told with cartoon characters. The story is about a young pack rat, Flo, who declines to take over the family business. Instead, she opens her own business in the Arizona desert with fellow desert animals as her customers. The book’s characters have all-too-human qualities, such as Flo’s father becoming upset over her decision not to carry on the family business. The text is interspersed with jokes, and the charming illustrations, which Aquilina drew, are humorous too. This book is also educational. For example, Aquilina tells readers how bison were almost hunted to extinction and were only restored at great expense. There’s also a section that explains that quail lay only one egg a day over 10 to 14 days and another that teaches us about the desert spiny lizard.

I liked this book as soon as I read the cast of characters. Some of them are Paul Roadrunner Harvey, Barry Burrowing Owl Goldwater, and Danny Quayle Quail (“the traditional spelling”). And as I read I laughed out loud numerous times, including when a turtle says, “It’s 118 degrees in the shade” with this response from a lizard: “But with the wind chill it feels like only 117.” Drew Aquilina’s quirky humor may not appeal to everyone, but those who like oddball comedy will marvel at his imagination. Although Aquilina doesn’t say what age group he has in mind, I believe anyone from middle-school age on up will enjoy The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest.

Lois Henderson

The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest by multi-award-winning cartoonist and humorist Drew Aquilina is the latest in a number of graphic tales produced by this doyen of the Arizona desert, which has been his home for many a year. Ten highly entertaining tales are centered around teenage Flo Pack Rat Webb and the activities going on around her water bar, set on forgotten live drip irrigation lines in the Sonoran Desert. The lively cast of characters ranges from a somewhat acerbic desert tortoise to Amanda “Kitty” Mountain Lion Blake, who protects Flo’s bar from any unwanted intruders. While the first story, “Welcome to the Water Bar,” introduces the major characters and contextualizes them within their setting, the other stories revolve around incidents that happen largely around the bar.

For anyone who wishes to learn more about the way of life of animals in the Sonoran Desert, Drew Aquilina’s The Arizona Water Bar: Tales from the Desert Southwest is an absolute pleasure to read and view. The characters are so joyfully and humorously presented that the whole collection comes across as a riotous romp through the bird and animal life of a major arid region in the United States. In between the numerous adventures that the various bar frequenters experience, the ecological impact of such features as the border fence are illustrated both in text and pictures so that the reader is made aware of the threats that imperil the well-being of the area and its inhabitants. The full-color illustrations are an absolute delight, and I found myself warming to the diverse characters immediately. An absolute treat for those of you who love animal stories and learning more about nature in the easiest of ways, no matter your age!