Summer is always a time of discovery. Turnip, Stucky, Viola, and Ana find this out the way that every kid and teen does—through adventures and misadventures on the way to adulthood. And, no, they aren’t exactly human, but that doesn’t mean that summer art classes and part-time jobs for the local paper are any less difficult just because you’re an elephant or a rabbit.
Renier’s graphic novel is a hard-sell in many respects because it doesn’t give its readers an easy answer for life. Turnip and Viola and their friends meander through their summer, learning who they are, fighting and making up, and discovering that the adults around them may not have the answers either. Unlike some comics (and novels!) for the school age reader, this one does not try to have a moral or a clear message. It’s more about the journey of summer, that time of freedom when you have the opportunity to discover and explore.
Adding to the feeling of this being the for readers who are trying to find themselves, Renier has crafted his book to look like it is a notebook, including a price sticker on the front cover and lines on the sides of the pages. His drawings are very detailed, asking the reader to look carefully. But his animal characters are not cartoonish and the emotions are realistic, making this feel as if it were set in any small town in America, rather than in a fantasy world.
Readers looking for a more contemplative read, a graphic novel that asks them to pay attention, to read carefully, will enjoy this. Even with a more limited audience, Renier’s work is important. It will speak to someone at just the right point in their life and they will know what it means.
Top Shelf, 2005