Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Splendid Scenarios Under The Sea

When precious personalities from books make a return appearance readers rejoice.  When you find yourself smiling just from looking at the book case, without reading a single word, you know laughter is sure to follow.  The cheerful nature of the characters is contagious.   This is something you are more than willing to spread.

Last autumn we meet two very likable sea creatures who also happen to be best friends in 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).  The second book in the series Super Narwhal And Jelly Jolt (A Narwhal And Jelly Book) (Tundra Books, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, a Penguin Random House Company, May 2, 2017) written and illustrated by Ben Clanton adds three more marvelous chapters in the adventures of one unique narwhal and jellyfish.  Prepare to be entertained.  Prepare to have your heart swell with love for these two remarkable pals.

Ahoy, Jelly!
Hey, Narwhal!  What's up?
I was just about to go for a swim.  After that I'll have something for lunch, probably a waffle, and then...

Narwhal announces with great exuberance his intentions to become a superhero.  When Jelly points out the obvious fact you can't become a superhero instantly, Narwhal asks exactly what is needed.  During the course of their conversation the idea of super outfits, a superhero name, a secret identity, the necessity of a sidekick, and a superpower clearly demonstrate the truth of Jelly's statement.  Of course, Narwhal, with his usual super positive outlook on everything is not discouraged.  He lives for looking on the bright side.

One evening when out for a swim, Narwhal comes upon Star (a starfish) resting on a rock.  Star would much rather be shining in the night sky.  Ever helpful, Narwhal suggests several possibilities for Star's wish to come true, even attempting some of them.  It's the final effort which will give readers a hint of Narwhal's true power.

In the third episode Narwhal is moving through the sea wearing his secret identity when he discovers Jelly is feeling rather sad.  In perfect form Narwhal transforms into Super Narwhal using his awe-inspiring nature to work wonders on Jelly.  Before long readers and Jelly will be laughing.  The lively twosome lead by Super Narwhal continues to alter their entire briny blue realm.


As soon as you start reading the dialogue penned by Ben Clanton you feel your spirits start to soar.  The exchanges between Narwhal and his sea friends, especially Jelly, are lively and positive.  Narwhal is always looking for solutions within each situation.  The humor comes in the answers and questions by Jelly and in the word play.

Through the contrast in the personalities of the characters readers are given the opportunity to place themselves in similar situations and ask themselves how they would respond.  Are they more like Narwhal or Jelly or a little bit of both?  As in the first book in the series Ben Clanton adds two extra chapters to shift the cadence.  He includes Super Sea Creatures which shares some fun facts about the mimic octopus, dolphins, blue whales, crabs, flying fish and sailfish.  A new escapade showcasing Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick (written by Narwhal and Jelly) will have you groaning at the puns and smiling nonstop.  Here is a sample passage from the book.

I've never had a mustache, Super Narwhal.
Too Bad! You'd look really great with a mustache.
Is that why you're blue?  Because you've never had a mustache?
Huh?  It has nothing to do with a mustache.
Did you accidentally set your hair on fire?

We're underwater!

The smiles on the faces of Narwhal and Jelly on the front of the book case set the tone for the entire title.  Readers will wonder what new excitement awaits these sea creatures turned superheroes.  To the left, on the back, readers can enjoy four square panels.  In one Narwhal is speaking, in two Jelly is adding to the fun and together in the fourth panel, the duo announce their new names.  Beneath the visuals we read:

Ben Clanton (A. K. A. Clantoons) is faster than a stationary bullet, more powerful than a toy locomotive, and can make super stories like this one and Narwhal: Unicorn Of The Sea!

The opening and closing endpapers done in two hues of golden yellow show miniature Super Narwhals and Jelly Jolts respectively on the first and second sets.

The limited color palette of a washed ocean blue, yellow, black, white and gray heightens the delight factor while also allowing for the punch which comes when adding spot color and full color in the Super Waffle And Strawberry Sidekick story.  Rendered in colored pencil, watercolor, ink and colored digitally the images span full pages, edge to edge, framed single pages, groups of panels on a single page and two full pages.  Shifting the sizes clearly contributes to the wonderful pacing.  All of the text is hand lettered by Ben.

The facial features Ben Clanton creates with dots, curves and lines are fantastic.  You can't help but be connected to his characters.  Their emotions and moods are experienced by everyone.

One of my favorite of many illustrations is a full page panel with a heavy black line and generous white space for a frame.  It's a close-up of Narwhal in his secret identity.  All we can see is the portion of his body from his tie up to the tip of his horn.  His is looking straight at the reader wearing a yellow tie, mustache and spectacles with a fin raised.  He's exclaiming:

Sounds like a job for...

Super Narwhal And Jelly Jolt (A Narwhal And Jelly Book) written and illustrated by Ben Clanton is a fun-filled read, silently or aloud.  These under-the-sea buddies are sure to find a place in each reader's heart.  This is a graphic novel series you will want on your personal and professional bookshelves.  Ahoy!

To discover more about Ben Clanton and his other work be sure to visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  There is a link there to his Instagram account.  By going to the publisher's website you can view some interior pages.  Narwhal and Jelly have their own website here.

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