Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Genre: Fantasy/Graphic Novel
What did you like about the book? With a final “ring” of the schoolyard bell, the students of Old Mill Primary School are done with another grade. Readers dive into the lives of several older students preparing for a summer sleepover and setting their sights on middle school, but our story really begins when the group takes an accidental tumble into a rain-soaked river. Our companions wake in a strange and colorful world filled with equal parts wonder and danger. Each character is thrust into a unique adventure as they discover more about their new surroundings and themselves.
Whyte’s debut publication is hefty in more than just physical weight and page length; characters address coming-of-age issues and insecurities throughout the book while navigating unfamiliar terrain with very real stakes. Most notably, Whyte’s illustration style alters with each child’s perspective, exhibiting both skill in storytelling and the different experiences taking place. Readers who become invested in the story will eagerly await book two as we end on a cliff-hanger and are surrounded by many remaining mysteries.
It is very clear why this title touts so many awards as it is fantastically intriguing with illustrations to match.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Much of the book is dedicated to exposition. The extended introduction of 35 pages containing text-heavy panels with minimal excitement within the illustrations will put off many readers. The method of altering story presentation has been successfully employed in many instances, famously with the classic 1939 Wizard of Oz that transported viewers from a world of black and white to a literal Technicolor setting, but it feels overused here.
While many readers will fall in love with the world Whyte creates, it may take a bit of time (and book talking) for this series to find its way to its audience.
To whom would you recommend this book? This epic fantasy will please fans searching for a multi-layered story. Readers who enjoyed series such as Pullman’s His Dark Materials or Kibuishi’s Explorer will fall right into this world.
Who should buy this book? Public & school libraries serving middle grade students (as an additional purchase)
Where would you shelve it ? Graphic Novel (fiction)
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No, it’s not for everyone.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Melissa McCleary, Pembroke Public Library, Pembroke, MA
Date of review: July 21, 2018