CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 34. . . . May 4, 2018
In Kyle Goes Alone, by Jam Thornhill, readers encountered Kyle, a three-toed sloth, who only descended to ground level about once a week in order to defecate and/or urinate. Vulnerable to predators while on the ground, Kyle then hurried (as much as a sloth can hurry) back up to the safety of the forest canopy. Kyle would likely be quite surprised by the antics of Peter and Ernesto, two sloths in Annable’s graphic novel. Peter & Ernesto. The friends enjoy the tree in which they live and the sky above them, but one day Ernesto announces that he is no longer satisfied with the piece of sky that he can see. Instead, he says, “I want to see ALL of the sky!” and in order to do so, “I must take a trip!”
Peter, the more cautious of the pair, tries to dissuade his friend, pointing out that “It’s too dangerous!” because “T-there are lions, wolves...even BEARS out there!” Ernesto, however, will not be dissuaded and climbs down their tree, saying, “I will come back. And tell you all about the other pieces of sky, Peter!”
Moving at a most unsloth-like pace, Ernesto quickly crosses a shaky swinging footbridge over an abyss, swims a river, and traverses tall grasslands before reaching the ocean. Of course, having never ever seen an ocean, Ernesto treats it like just another river and begins swimming. Before Ernesto can become exhausted and drown, he is rescued by a whale called Louie who, upon hearing the purpose of Ernesto’s quest, agrees to assist him by taking him to see the sky above a dessert, and there a camel teaches Ernesto about a number of the constellations in the night sky. In the mountains past the dessert, Ernesto then encounters a fox and a racoon who tell him about another piece of sky he must see, the Arctic’s Northern Lights. Precisely how Ernesto gets to the Arctic is not explained, but there Ernesto encounters one of the animals Peter warned him about – a bear, this one being of the polar variety. Realizing that he has now seen enough sky, Ernesto calls upon Louie the whale to rescue him and take him home.
Meanwhile, during the period Ernesto has been experiencing all of his new sky events, Peter has been worrying about his absent best friend. Fearing that “Ernesto could get eaten by a BEAR”, Peter decides, “I must bring him back!” Cautiously, a fearful Peter makes his way down the tree before following the same route that Ernesto had previously taken to the ocean. Though Ernesto had crossed the footbridge and river with aplomb, both of these “obstacles” pose major challenges for Peter. However, with the guidance of Murphy, a macaw, who flies above the bridge and encourages Peter to look up at him rather than down into the chasm, Peter is able to safely reach the other side. Stepping stones get Peter part way across the river before he must screw up his courage and swim the rest. Finally, Peter reaches the ocean where he realizes, “Ernesto could have gone ANYWHERE from here!” Annable intersperses Peter’s “scenes” between those of Ernesto so that their adventures are occurring in parallel.
Lamenting in song that Ernesto will never return, Peter is assured by a trio of oceanside crabs that “Your buddy will come back”, and they offer to help him keep watch on the ocean. Time passes, and the quartet fall asleep only to be awakened by the shouts of a group of monkeys who are yelling the name of one of their missing numbers. When the strength of Peter’s loud shout summons the missing monkey, the monkeys decide to reciprocate and join in Peter’s ocean-directed call for Ernesto. By chance, this call coincides with the whale’s arriving from the Arctic with Ernesto on his back. As the pair hug each other, they say simultaneously, “YOU WON’T BELIEVE THE ADVENTURE I HAD!” Back in their tree that night, Ernesto shares the constellations overhead while acknowledging that bears might be a little scary.
Annable’s cartoon illustrations are delightful, and, while Ernesto and Peter are simply rendered, their facial expressions and posture perfectly capture the mood and emotions of what is occurring at any point in their adventures. Though Annable tends to employ three or four panels per page, his comic book-like cartoons with their speech bubbles are presented in various groupings which offer visual variety but more importantly provide appropriate emphasis. For example, when Ernesto encounters the footbridge, Annable simply presents it from Ernesto’s eye level in a half-page panel; however, when Peter must cross the same bridge, Annable utilizes a full-page illustration, and the viewer is looking at Peter as he stands at one side of the bridge that spans an obviously deep chasm, the illustration thereby underlining how potentially dangerous the crossing is for Peter.
Peter & Ernesto is a wonderful story of friendship, and readers will identify with one or both of the fun, albeit different, characters. Next to come is Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.