________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 1 . . . . August 29, 2008

cover Jellaby.

Kean Soo.
New York, NY: Hyperion (Distributed in Canada by H.B. Fenn & Co.), 2008.
143 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-1-42310337-0.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Sylvia Pantaleo.

**** /4

The image on the book’s first page reveals much about 10-year-old Portia’s feelings regarding her move to a new suburban community. As well as being disengaged at school and having no friends, Portia has a mother who seems somewhat distant. Her father’s absence is one of the mysteries in the graphic novel, and Portia’s odd dreams seem to communicate information about his disappearance. One night, Portia awakens from a strange dream to noises outside her window. An investigation in the nearby wooded area results in the discovery of a timid, huge purple monster. Because the mute creature seems lonely and hungry, Portia takes him home and makes him a tuna sandwich. For the most part, he understands Portia’s language. However, instead of waiting in the woods for her the next day until school is over, he locates himself on the school’s roof. Portia joins him, and together they observe one of her classmates, Jason, being bullied by a group of peers. The creature, whom Portia names Jellaby, is determined to assist Jason. Consequently, in order to keep Jellaby’s existence a secret, Portia reluctantly gets involved in the bullying situation. As a result of her intervention, Portia and Jason develop a friendship and begin to search for Jellaby’s true home. A mysterious door seems to have meaning for both Jellaby and Portia and after seeing the door in an advertisement for the Hallowe’en Fair at Exhibition Place, the trio embarks on an excursion to Toronto. However, unexpected events result in the trio’s jumping off the train before reaching their destination. To be continued ...

internal art

      Jellaby is a very endearing monster, with a large head, huge blue eyes, two small horns protruding from his head, and a pronounced under-bite that reveals a jagged set of lower canines. He has a dragon-like tail, tiny red wings, and small, horizontal red strips that begin on his face and end on his prehensile tail. The children in the book have large heads and small bodies.

      Soo uses a limited colour palette in Jellaby. Purple-toned illustrations predominate with some black, a small amount of red and orange, and the tiniest bits of green. The book is organized into four chapters, and both the illustrations, themselves, and the panels are outlined in black. Most of the illustrations on the glossy pages convey a frontal or side view perspective. Significance of meaning is conveyed effectively by the changing layout of the panels. For example, on page 18, the layout of eight panels of varying size and shape creates suspense as Portia searches in the wooded area at night. Soo distorts the background colour of some panels to communicate information about Portia’s situation or emotions. For example, on page 8, the background in three of the horizontal panels is faint to show the scene from Portia’s perspective. Some of the panels have black backgrounds, again to heighten the significance and intensity of particular plot events. Typography and other symbols are also used effectively to communicate meaning in the graphic novel.

      Jellaby started as an online comic, and readers can access the first 62 pages online, although the title page in the graphic novel differs from the online version. The thoughtful and touching story has depth and contains both humour and mystery. A minor criticism is the lack of indication on the cover of Jellaby being “volume one.” Indeed, many readers will be surprised by the indeterminate ending of “to be continued.”

      Although Kean Soo currently resides in Canada, he was born in England and raised in Hong Kong. He started his first webcomic in 2002, and he currently co-edits and contributes to the Flight anthologies.

Highly Recommended.

Dr. Sylvia Pantaleo teaches language arts courses in the Faculty of Education, the University of Victoria.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.