A vengeful fish couple, mourning the loss of their guppies — eaten by Mr. Big the Snapping Turtle — decide to rid the pond of the old terror, regardless of the warnings of others about disturbing the balance of nature. Their campaign gains momentum from other creatures in the pond when the guppies recruit a murder of crows, who are intent on their own agenda. When a new danger is introduced to the pond, the fish realize that Mr. Big is necessary for their survival. It is also soon clear that the crows cannot be trusted at all in the power struggle for the pond. Crayfish, the voice of reason throughout, resorts to the age old teaching device, the telling of a story, to get his message across to those agitating for the removal of Mr. Big, as well as, of course, to the reader.

In her introduction, co-author Carol Dembicki explains the genesis of the idea of the Dembicki’s mini-comic book series which metamorphosed into this bigger (pardon the pun) book about Mr. Big. This series of stories about dramatic seasonal events, even with its didactic undercurrents, successfully transfers to the graphic novel format with its large dynamic panel spreads and vivid and moody colour palates. Matt Dembicki provides a flowing perspective of the pond — from above, below, and on the surface — through a broad array of panel shapes and sizes. While the majority of the creatures can transmit their thoughts to each other and the reader, Mr. Big, the only one named in the story, is silent, mysterious, and aloof. The anthropomorphism presented in the dialogue and story line is not reflected in the illustrations, where the inhabitants of the pond and the crows remain true to their natural behaviours and appearances.

The authentic natural life cycle of the pond and its inhabitants as offered by Carol and Matt are applauded in the preface by Jay Hosler, biology instructor and comic book creator and in the afterword by Sean Henderson, animal keeper at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The self-published series, originally published about a decade previously, was awarded the 2007 Day prize which commemorates achievements in small presses.

Mr. Big: A Tale of Pond Life
by Carol Dembicki, Matt Dembicki
Art by Matt Dembicki
ISBN: 9781616089672
Sky Pony Press, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: 7-11

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta


    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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