Graphic Novelist Ethan Young, best known for Nanjing: The Burning City, has created a new book for children about how we interact with others emotionally. Entitled Space Bear, this wordless graphic novel takes readers on a journey filled with action and odd characters from another world. The writer/illustrator uses colorful artwork and visual storytelling successfully, providing a story that shows how our negative emotions can be overcome with a little help.
Bear astronaut Pilgrim Finch has crashed landed on an unknown planet. He discovers various creatures, delicious food, and stone monuments that depict the history of this weird world. There are also dark shadows with red eyes and mouths who infest any living being who is feeling negative emotion, especially angry and pain. Pilgrim tries to evade these beings but they pop up everywhere. The only thing that can keep them away are positive emotions, such as bravery, compassion, and love. But can he keep a level head when trouble follows him everywhere?
Young’s story of compassion and pain is told very well as a wordless graphic novel. Colors and symbols are used to depict the extreme emotion the characters are expressing, such as red for anger and blue for bravery. The rest of the color palette is a mixture of pink, blue and purple hues with some shadows as evening draws near in the story. Besides our bear main character, the rest of the cast are alien like beings that could pass for hybrids of various animals, such as cats, birds, raccoons, and monkeys. The expressions and body language of each character are visibly shown, allowing the reader to understand their emotions and actions. Thought bubbles are shown when characters need to openly communicate with each other but instead of text, readers are shown an image or a symbol that represents the discussion taking place.
Young’s Space Bear will touch readers hearts and provide them with a visual understanding on how our emotions effect ourselves and others. It is a wonderful tale that does not rely on spoken words. Public and school librarians will want to add this title to their collection, especially if they know of any children in grades 4th-6th who enjoy reading wordless graphic novels.
By Ethan Young
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)