Banana Tail, a monkey with a long yellow tail, has found the best shell ever – it looks like a banana. Unfortunately, when he goes to get the rest of his collection, his friend Reena, the color-changing rhino, sits on it. She doesn’t want Banana Tail to know what she did, but he knows something’s wrong because she’s changed color to green with pink highlights. He tries to cheer her up with bananas (she doesn’t like them), swinging on a vine (she doesn’t like that either), and finally they end up at Hog Bog. Tic Tac the checkerboard zebra dives in, Banana Tail dives in, and finally Slubb the hippo, who sports a splotch of colors on his bulging white stomach, makes his famous Hog Bog triple hippo dive. The three of them convince Reena to try a dive, but when she jumps in, she splashes all the water out of the pond. So Slubb tells them a story of when he was little. He tried to help a “little fellow,” who appears to be some kind of monkey, get fruit out of a tree, but when he’d climbed the tree it turned out to be too small to hold a hippo and he fell down, squashing the fruit. The moral being, “Even though he was upset, he knew I was trying my best to help him reach the fruit.” Reena bursts into tears and confesses all, Banana Tail is sad but forgives her because “you’re my bestest friend and that matters to me more than any silly old shell.” Everyone cries and hugs and Banana Tail finds an even better banana shell.
The art is created in full-color CGI, with each page being a full, colorful scene with a couple white speech balloons and explanations of the plot and action in yellow boxes. The first page, showing Banana Tail holding up his shell against a blue sky, is pretty cute. It goes downhill from there. In the second scene, Reena and Banana Tail are apparently staring directly at the reader, or somewhere in the sky, instead of at the shell Banana Tail is holding, although they’re supposed to be talking to each other. On the ground in front of them is another shell and a starfish. In the next picture, Banana Tail is running into the forest and Reena sits down on the shell…which mysterious moved behind her. The starfish also migrated to a different point. This continues throughout the story with poorly posed figures, bad layouts, and confusing art that doesn’t match the text or action described. They also change size; in one of the final scenes, Reena has apparently shrunk and turned into a floating rhino.
The weird combination of dialogue and descriptions of action makes it sound as though the author was considering making this an animated movie and accidentally put the script directions into the book. For example, on the pages showing Reena’s confession, there’s a yellow box at the top which says, “As Reena hears this she begins to cry.” just in case we weren’t sure what those blurry purple drops flying from her eyes were. The speech balloons read “Waaaaaaa-haaa, I’m sorr-horr-ry, Banana Tail! I should have told you all along. I sat on your shell and ruined it.” In the next picture, the yellow box explains that Banana Tail is sad but hugs his crying friend – as seen in the picture. This explanation of the action is sometimes helpful when the pictures are too blurry or confusing, but shouldn’t have been necessary in a well-designed and illustrated graphic novel. There are also odd turns of phrase that don’t fit with the young audience obviously targeted, “Tic Tac, seeing his two best friends in this emotional state, runs over, embraces them and he too starts to cry.”
Even parents looking for moral-heavy titles for their children will shy away from the confusing art and stiff language of this book. Parents looking for child-friendly comics will want to check out Geoffrey Hayes’ Benny and Penny series or Zoe Alley’s over-sized graphic adaptations of fairy tales.