In an isolated swamp, a mysterious figure appears, dancing across the water. The animals discuss who and what she is, but only one shows concern for the ghostly figure: an owl. Despite the objections of the other animals, the owl speaks to the ghost, promises to help her, and travels with her to try and see where she came from. Farther into the woods, they discover an isolated house, a young woman, and the terrifying man who is attempting to take her home, her land, and her self. Will the owl and the ghost be able—or willing—to protect her?

The plot is thin at best, mainly providing a vehicle for the elaborate, swirling art and the owl’s philosophical musings on offering help to others, whether or not there is a return. Intricately drawn creatures populate the pages, from the main character of owl and crow to smaller amphibians, reptiles, and birds. The ghost is a cloudy, mysterious figure with pastel-shaded billows of hair and form and huge, green eyes. Set against the owl, ghost, and the many friends the owl has acquired through his years of doing favors, are the mysterious owl parliament, with stylized figures—are they masks or spirits?—and the threatening man. Unnamed, he at first appears as a large, looming figure, threatening the dark-skinned, curly-haired woman, Jessica, who long ago helped the owl. As the story progresses, he becomes a demonic figure, cloaked in flames and blood, losing his humanity as he continually attacks the woman and her protectors.

The explanation of the ghost, who was the opening of the story, feels tacked on at the end. At less than 50 pages, there isn’t room for a lot of plot development, but the story leaves many questions unexplored. The frightening attacks and resultant gore, as well as the transformation of the ghost, aim this at a more mature audience although the sometimes pedantic discussion of helping others feels much younger. The closest read-alike would be Jill Thompson’s Beasts of Burden, but this slim offering falls far short of that cult classic work. Purchase where the art may be of interest or additional graphic novels for an older teen and adult audience are needed.

The Ghost, The Owl
by Franco
Art by Sara Richard
ISBN: 9781632293596
Action Lab Entertainment, 2018

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library

    Reviewer

    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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