Author/Illustrator: Ben Clanton
Narwhal and Jelly, vol. 1
My rating: 3.5 of 5
Narwhal wanders into unknown waters and meets Jelly–who may or may not be imaginary, but who is definitely a good friend. Together, they do cool stuff like eat waffles (yum!) and make a pod of friends. And even though misunderstandings may sometimes lead to conflict between them, they’re the sort of friends who work things out together and still have lots of fun.
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea is an weird but adorable graphic novel for younger readers (I would say early elementary, primarily) featuring two super-cute sea pals. It is extremely random and whimsical at times (okay, most all the time), but in a way that’s fun and relatable . . . although it’s still a bit too random for me to be wholly on board with it. I can see it being a really fun read for kids, though. Plus, it includes some fun sea-animal facts and features some helpful conflict-resolution skills–something kids in the primary intended readership definitely need to be exposed to. The art is appealingly simple, although the random (again) photographs of waffles and strawberries throw off the vibe a bit . . . or maybe they make the vibe. I don’t know. A bit weird for my taste, but cute and fun. Recommended for early elementary readers.
Author: Diane Duane
Young Wizards, vol. 2
My rating: 5 of 5
Young wizards and best friends Kit and Nita are looking forward to a pleasant vacation at the ocean after their huge ordeal fighting back the forces of darkness and entropy to save their world. But it looks like they’re finding that responsibility begets greater responsibility as they find themselves once again dragged into some great wizardry with the safety of any number of people–and other beings–in the balance. Only this time, the action is all happening in the ocean itself, as the two friends encounter the great wizards of the sea–whales, dolphins, and the like–and discover entirely new ways to do wizardry. But neither of them could have truly calculated just how much this task would demand of them.
Deep Wizardry was an incredible follow-up to Duane’s So You Want to Be a Wizard. It occupies a sweet spot just on the verge between children’s fiction and YA, without really being either exactly. In that regard, I think it reminds me a lot of Diana Wynne Jones’ and Madeleine L’Engle’s writing–stylistically and thematically as well. The writing is excellent, and the pacing–while slower than many books I’ve read–has a steady deliberateness that works really well for this particular story. The characters are great, and the way in which the author handles the very real struggles they deal with is really quite excellently done. This book is different from a lot of books in that it addresses themes such as responsibility, sacrifice, and redemption; it’s very moving and also unique enough to be both a difficult read and an incredible one. Highly recommended.