Bera the One-Headed Troll is a beautifully illustrated and atmospheric graphic novel told in the style of a fairy tale.
The title character is the pumpkin gardener for the Troll King, and lives on an island with only one companion, a talking owl named Winslowe. Bera lives a simple life—her home is a small cottage with a pumpkin carved over the door. Inside, she has a fire for cooking, a small bookshelf, a table with no chairs, and interesting, cultural artifacts. Bera’s life changes when she observes a human baby in the water being abducted by goblins. Without thinking twice, Bera rescues the baby and gives him sanctuary in her home.
Seeking advice, she creates a concoction that wakes up one of her ancestors, who warns that the baby is in danger from those looking for him. Soon enough, the former witch of the Troll King shows up on Bera’s door looking for her lost human baby, but the witch has ulterior motives for the child. Bera decides that the baby must be returned to the human village, but is wary of her own ability to fulfill the quest. She embarks on a journey to find a hero who can complete the mission. Each hero she finds, however, is either too old and no longer capable of completing the quest or is in league with the witch. Bera eventually comes to accept that she is the one who has to protect the baby, with help from friends she makes along the way.
While the story is interesting, it is the artwork and sepia tone colors that makes this book stand out among other tales with similar tropes. The characters are drawn in a style reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s monsters in Where the Wild Things Are, but are also memorable on their own. The sepia tone coloring and hatched artwork work well with the mood and overall tone of the story.
Bera the One-Headed Troll will make a great addition to children’s graphic novels collections, but will also be enjoyed over and over again by people of all ages. It will make an especially perfect read on a cool and dark autumn evening. Pair with Over the Garden Wall, either the animated mini-series or graphic novel adaptation.
Bera the One-Headed Troll
by Eric Orchard
First Second, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10