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Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea is the first book in Ben Clanton’s new early reader graphic novel series “Narwhal and Jelly Book,” and from the first book alone, I know I’m hooked.
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea actually features three smaller stories in one. First, Narwhal and Jelly meet. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own awesome traveling pod of friends. And finally Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever and learn about the power of imagination and friendship. And, of course, there’s waffles.
Narwhal and Jelly could not be more dissimilar. Narwhal’s optimism and enthusiasm shine from page one, making him a notable contrast to (and unlikely friend for) Jelly. In fact, Jelly doesn’t even believe Narwhal is real when they first meet. Jelly’s cynicism is the perfect impetus to push the story forward because it helps to showcase his own personality, as well as Narwhal’s. Just as Jelly and Narwhal get to know each other, we as readers get to know them, too, quirks and all.
Visually speaking, we see the characters’ differences almost immediately. Much of the first two stories relies heavily on Narwhal’s unique appearance, specifically his horn. These differences–physical and emotional–are then severely heightened as we see how the two characters are treated in their surroundings: Narwhal is gray against a blue, ocean-colored background, always smiling and standing out against his surroundings, and Jelly is blue on a blue background, fading softly into the world around him. And yet, the ever-brilliant Clanton situates these major differences as foils that come together to create a more balanced friendship.
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea is funny and accessible, and it offers a genuine and authentic look at how friendships are formed. We experience Jelly’s feelings of being left behind, Narwhal’s tendency to overlook reality, and the intricacies of two individuals finding their groove. It introduces the graphic novel medium in an accessible way for children and makes you want to head out and explore the world.
And get waffles. Definitely waffles.