AdHouse, 2005 (2005)
Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton
hough easily confused with a children's story,
provides deep but subtle themes that teens and adults can appreciate. As an eight-year-old child, Hailey loves to spend her summer days walking barefoot through the forest near her house. While exploring the singing birds, fluttering butterflies, and creatures of the brook, she encounters Salamander. The two become instant friends. Hailey spends long hours listening to Salamander tell his stories. Whether exploring the depths of the pond with a minnow or soaring through the air with a hawk, Salamander's lucid and awe-inspiring tales bring her great delight. But the magic of youth doesn't last forever. As she grows older, Hailey visits her dear friend less and less. When she does see him, she always enjoys it, but those times dwindle. Before she knows it, Hailey is on the cusp of adulthood. Though full of love, the relationship will soon end and they both know it.
ope Larson delivers an aesthetically pleasing and wonderful tale of youthful imagination. It uniquely blends themes from
The Giving Tree
Where the Wild Things Are
, allowing a reader to reflect on the magic and energy he or she possessed as a child. With few words, Larson's panels remarkably deliver thoughts and feelings straight from the graphic novel to the mind. Using solely black, white, and green, she infuses her nature scenes with vibrancy and liveliness they would lack if black and white or full color were used. She draws Salamander as an anthropomorphized black creature with a white mask, contrasting with Hailey who appears only in green or white. Added to this, Larson includes a nature lesson, identifying the various trees, bugs, and animals that Hailey or Salamander come across. Her depictions of Salamander's stories provide an artistic fluidity that can at times be both provocative and endearing.
n a world where we push children to become adults at younger and younger ages, a graphic novel like
reminds us of how children live in their own world; a world that still has magical powers and mysterious ways. The sooner we make them grow up, the sooner they lose their chance to fully enjoy and appreciate the rich vastness of imagination. It's from these idle dreams that one develops a sense of hope, wonder, and love. Larson's graphic novel serves as a great reminder and example of where those idle dreams can lead one.
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