Leave it to the creative mind of the man who brought us It Came In The Mail to breathe life into two distinctive characters in the first of a new graphic novel series. Narwhal: Unicorn Of The Sea (A Narwhal And Jelly Book) (Tundra Books, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, a Penguin Random House Company, October 4, 2016) written and illustrated by Ben Clanton matches unlikely marine animals together for three wonderful episodes. Get ready for giggles and grins!
NARWHAL IS REALLY AWESOME
ONE DAY WHEN NARWHAL WAS OUT FOR A SWIM, HE FOUND HIMSELF IN NEW WATERS.
WHOA! WHAT ARE YOU?
ME? I'M NARWHAL THE NARWHAL!
Narwhal has run into Jelly who can't quite believe Narwhal is real. Narwhal turns around and asks Jelly if he is real. Narwhal has never seen a jellyfish. Jellyfish has never seen a narwhal. They are both wondering if the other is a figment of their imagination. The comedic conversation continues until they come to a mutual agreement about pals and waffles. I know what you're thinking. Waffles? Under the sea? That's only the beginning of the fun in this book.
In their second adventure Narwhal has read online (he has a computer) that narwhals travel and live in pods. He can't find his pod. Ever the glass-half-full kind of creature, Narwhal is going to make his own pod. Going from animal to animal each one is gifted with a horn when they join. Someone is not happy about being forgotten until the word party is mentioned.
When Jelly swims up to Narwhal in their third encounter, Narwhal is reading his favorite book in the world. When Jelly sees the inside of the book, he is shocked and completely puzzled. (You will be, too.) With his upbeat, silver-lining outlook on life, Narwhal proceeds to teach Jelly about the possibilities and potential of having a book like his favorite one. (There might be a sea monkey involved.)
You can sincerely appreciate the skill of Ben Clanton in fashioning this narrative when you read it aloud. The contrast in the personalities of Narwhal and Jelly is enough to promote hilarity but still allow them to compromise. Or, to be truthful, to allow Jelly to adjust his disposition.
The pacing is perfection. Each conversation builds to an ending which will generate smiles all around. To pause the story Ben Clanton has inserted Really Fun Facts, More Really Fun Facts and The Narwhal Song between chapters one and two and two and three. Here is a continuation of the opening dialogue.
YEP! UNICORN OF THE SEA!
ARE YOU REAL?
LAST TIME I CHECKED.
AM I WHAT?
UM...YEAH, I'M A JELLYFISH.
JELLYFISH? heehee! THAT SOUNDS FUNNY!
In soft sea blues, black, white and yellow, Ben Clanton begins his limited color palette which contributes to the charm of this title. Who can resist the cheerful Narwhal on the front of the book case? Jellyfish is looking rather alarmed. Who is this Unicorn of the Sea? To the left, on the back, four square blue panels on a yellow background, two with Narwhal speaking and two with Jellyfish talking, promote this book and waffles. On the opening endpapers tiny Narwhals cover the space. Miniature Jellies cover the closing endpapers.
These images are rendered in colored pencil and colored digitally. All the text is hand-lettered by Ben Clanton. Wider, heavy black lines frame each panel and the elements in each picture. The panel sizes vary from square to rectangle and to full page pictures. At times Clanton will place a square within a larger visual for emphasis. For a big "WOW" factor there are several two page illustrations.
It should also be noted that the limited color choices open the door to the zing we get when more realistic color is introduced in the final chapter. The quality of facial expressions and emotion Clanton gets with a few lines and dots is amazing. These characters are ready to leap from the sea into your space.
One of my many favorite illustrations is on page nine. The background is white with light blue bubbles surrounding Jelly who is looking rather grumpy in the center of the page. His brows are furrowed (a straight line across his eyes). Two of his six legs are raised to look like arms as he looks directly at the reader making an appeal with his statements. I dare you not to burst out laughing at this page.
Narwhal: Unicorn Of The Sea (A Narwhal And Jelly Book) written and illustrated by Ben Clanton is a wonderful beginning to what promises to be a delightful series. I guarantee you will fall in love with these characters after the first few pages. I can hardly wait for the second book to be released. According to IndieBound.org it will be May 2017. Podtastic!
To discover more about Ben Clanton please visit his website by following the link attached to his name. You can get a peek at some of the interior by following this link to the publisher's website. Narwhal and Jellyfish have their own website here. This book is featured at All The Wonders in a post. This title is one of the School Library Journal Top 10 Graphic Novels | 2016.
@AmySetoMusser can't believe I'm actually posting this! But here it is . . . pic.twitter.com/CpdB9obkyF— Ben Clanton (@Clantoons) December 8, 2016