Two reluctant friends—and a talking bear—journey deep into the night in search of answers.
The night of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival unfolds as the villagers cast hundreds of lanterns down the river in honor of a local folk legend. For Ben, this year will be different from the rest. He and his friends make a pact to follow the lanterns until the unknown end of their voyage. One by one Ben’s friends give up and return home, all except for Nathaniel, whose love for the cosmos and nerdy ways ostracize him from the group. In spite of his misgivings, Ben decides to uphold the pact with Nathaniel. A third, unexpected member joins the adventure when the boys come across a talking fisherbear who’s on a quest to fish as his ancestors did. The trio eventually loses track of the path, and an unplanned encounter with the feisty Madam Majestic leads to even greater escapades. To shed more light on the story risks spoiling Andrews’ marvelously melancholic, earnest graphic novel, at its core an exercise in whimsical self-reflection. This story’s a quiet one in which danger flickers and hope flares at odd but fruitful moments. The core relationship between Ben (a dark-haired, light-skinned, bespectacled boy) and Nathaniel (a dark-skinned boy with puffs of hair) never veers into pure mawkishness. Likewise, the primarily blue and red mixed-media pictures underscore how nighttime sometimes promises transformation.
Brilliantly enchanting. (Graphic fabulism. 10-14)