The graphic novel section of any large bookshop is one of my favourite places to explore. There’s such a diverse selection of tomes, vibrant colours, strange and vague titles. But I have to admit, I never end up buying one - I already have too many to read at home, and never get round to them anyway. I’ve had the same copy of Watchmen on my bookcase for roughly 8 years, and that copy wasn’t originally mine (I’m sorry, friend that lent me Watchmen back in high school). There’s just something stopping me from sitting down with a good graphic novel and devouring its images, perhaps a latent habit from university days where it was Shakespeare or bust. However, when I was given a favoured graphic novel from a friend for a birthday gift, the pressure of the gift led me to reading The Motherless Oven, and having finished the series last year, I feel like I must recommend them to everyone.
Sometimes, a book can really catch you off guard. Sometimes, a little story you thought would be a light, silly, throwaway read ends up packing a devastating emotional punch that forces you to sit in silence for a long while after. This is what happened to me with Morris Gletizman’s Boy Overboard. The cover, a dated mish-mash of early 2000s clip-art that resembled a product more likely from Fisher Price than Penguin Publishing, did not exactly prepare me for the turmoil that lay inside the pages. Yes, I know. This is a very literal case of me judging a book by its cover. And I’ve learned my lesson. Because this goofy, garish little book with a toy box ‘Ages 9+’ sticker on it very nearly broke my heart in two.
Well-written children’s fiction can have wonderfully soothing powers to it. There’s a lot of comfort to be found in the simplicity of the storytelling, the fun and quirky characters and the wholesome messages they support which a lot of us still need reminding of as we get older. When we turn to a children’s book, we want to feel like we’re being read to and we want to feel like everything will be alright in the end. In this regard, Kelly Barnhill’s magical novel The Girl Who Drank The Moon provides us with that gentle, smiling escapism that we crave.