When we last saw Portia, Jason, and Jellaby in Jellaby: The Lost Monster, they had just left the train that they were traveling on to the city. Now, in Jellaby: Monster in the City, they are wandering down the train tracks, continuing to their destination. Portia and Jason have fallen silent and are not currently speaking to each other. Jellaby is hungry, as always, but also sad that his new friends are fighting. As they get closer to their destination they will all be forced to confront difficult choices, leading them to discover that sometimes what you want isn’t always what you need. And that sometimes, maybe you have what you were looking for to begin with. But what monsters lurk in the darkness, and what dreams will they be forced to confront before the end?
I really, really enjoy this series and I wish there were more books featuring these characters. I mean, seriously, how can you not like a female character that’s bright, intelligent, and just wants to have a couple of friends without demeaning her own intelligence? And then you get Jellaby who doesn’t talk, but communicates through the shaking of his head and other non-verbal queues. He’s just so much fun to watch and wonder at what he’s going to do as he figures out the world around him, including eating some flowers. Soo has created engaging characters that feel like you could step out your door and run into in your neighborhood. Even the bullies that Portia encounters aren’t crude half portrayed characters; they have depth to them. Overall, the writing reminds me a bit of Hayao Miyazaki, mostly because of the fully-realized characters.
While the artwork appears simple in nature, with thick lines delineating the characters and a few colors giving them depth, they are stunningly beautiful. Drawing a lovable purple monster that doesn’t look like Barney is difficult, but Soo pulls it off. Jellaby is one of those types of monsters that you just want to take home with you and keep him safe. And seeing the human characters interact with each other reminds me a bit of Peanuts, just those simple lines giving depth to the characters and making them feel alive. Like they’ll walk off the page and come over and talk to you. I love it.
Sadly this is the last in the series. I really wish Soo would would write a third or even a fourth book to tell us more about the world of Jellaby, but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. If you’re looking for other stories like Jellaby, I would recommend Andy Runton’s Owly series and Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series.
Jellaby: Monster in the City, vol. 2
by Kean Soo
Stone Arch Books, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 9-13