Captain Quenterindy Quirk, newly promoted by King Hoonkl and sent on an exploratory mission to the uncharted reaches of the kingdom, is in high spirits until the fifth day of the voyage when his ship’s encounter with gigantic, brutish Hooklm leave the entire party shipwrecked. Taking shelter in a damp cave, Quirk’s crew encounter Hukka, a prickly, witchlike creature who appears to take pity on the party and permits them to stay for three days while they recover from injuries and decide on a plan of action.

The ship’s cartographer, Nersel, sets off on his own to try and help the group and encounters a group of small creatures called Yoons. The Yoons are sheltering Quemulus, who says he has had unpleasant dealings with Hukka in the past. Quirk and the rest of the group discover that Nersel is missing, along with an injured scout named Zaifer they had been trying to care for. Things start to look desperate for Quirk and his party; they must figure out a way to escape and continue the quest given to them by the king.

Quirk and his companions, as well as many of the creatures they encounter, are depicted as fuzzy, Fraggle-like creatures with brightly colored fur and round, innocent-looking eyes. This choice makes the artwork more appealing to younger kids and less so to older kids, who would probably think it looks “babyish.” This would be fine, except for the fact that the names are challenging to read, and the vocabulary is extremely advanced (the words “sojourn,” “commence,” and “purview” are all used on page 6 alone). Additionally, the graphic novel begins with large chunks of text in cursive writing. It’s Quirk writing in his log, providing backstory and commentary. Though this feature helps to emulate the Age of Exploration sea captain trope this book depends on, I can definitely see many kids getting intimidated by such huge swaths of cursive writing—especially since it’s taught less and less in schools.

The plot is based on facing dangers and the struggle to survive in a hostile, unknown environment, but the adorable fuzzy creatures and the proper way Quirk and his crew go about their business make the whole thing tame enough for young kids to handle. Hukka and her backstory are one of the most interesting aspects of the book, especially since she is clearly grieving over someone named Hekpa, but we never find out who that was. Perhaps readers will discover the answer in the sequel, which is nicely set up in the last couple of pages, with someone (probably Hukka) scrying an image of Quirk & Co. through magical means, just as they think they have escaped danger.

The artwork is by far the strongest component of this graphic novel. It’s vibrantly colored with just the right amount of detail to add richness without overwhelming young readers. Additionally, there is a flashback sequence where Quemulus tells his backstory that handles panel edging and placement exceptionally well, making the borders round and natural-looking—evoking the clouds and rocks in his environment, while also making a clear visual distinction of each panel area.

This book will find its audience in younger children who are looking for books at a higher reading level. Kids who enjoyed The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti and can handle the cursive and challenging vocabulary would enjoy it.

Quirk’s Quest vol .1: Into the Outlands 
by Robert Christie
Art by Deborah Lang
ISBN: 9781626722330
First Second, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

  • Kristen Lawson

    Past Reviewer

    Kristen Lawson is the Youth Services Department Manager at the Roselle Public Library in Roselle, IL. She has worked with children and teens in public libraries since graduating with her MLS from UIUC in 2006. Now she is working on making more space for kids’ graphic novels, in addition to other duties that fall under “making the library awesome.” Though very picky about movies and music, she has a wide range of reading interests and is constantly on a mission to read all the things.

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