Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Middle-Grade Graphic Novel Review: Bera the One-Headed Troll

I started reading graphic novels a few years ago and have enjoyed them very much. It’s nice to be able to squeeze a short book into the cracks between my longer reads and linger over the pictures. Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard (I believe the first graphic novel by this picture book author/illustrator) is a fun, unique, and warm adventure story for middle-graders about a humble, kind-hearted troll.

Bera the troll is a bit ugly-looking, with her sharp teeth, pointy ears, and pupil-less eyes, but she has a big heart. She lives on a small island all by herself, with her owl, Winslowe, for company. She is the official pumpkin gardener of the Troll King and is just finishing up her annual harvest of pumpkins when the story opens. After seeing off the foxes in a boat that came to deliver her harvest to the King, Bera hears a strange wailing sound. She follows it to the other side of the island and discovers a human baby floating in a pot, being fought over by some cruel mermaids (yes, in this story, mermaids are ugly, nasty things).

Bera finds out that the evil Cloote, former Head Witch of the Troll King, is after the baby, so she decides to keep the human baby safe. She doesn’t know what to do with a human baby and is only a humble pumpkin gardener, so she and Winslowe travel across the water to the main islands to consult Wulf the Dragon Master, even though Bera has never been off her tiny island before. She and Winslowe – with the baby – set off on their adventure, seeking the expert advice of one legendary hero after another.

Bera and Winslowe continue their quest to return the baby to the human village, even though one hero after another seems unable to help. Little by little, Bera realizes that maybe she is the hero this baby needs, as they continue traveling. The threesome encounters all sorts of dangerous creatures and even gets some unexpected help (my favorite good guys are the hedgehog brothers). The ending is very satisfying.

A page from Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard
Bera makes a wonderfully unexpected, kind heroine. I loved her right from the start! It’s a very creative story that the author says was inspired by Norse fairy tales and illustrations by Arthur Rackham and Maurice Sendak. The pages of the book are covered with imaginative drawings, done mostly in shades of brown, with some occasional splashes of yellow. I enjoyed this delightful graphic novel from beginning to end. It’s the best kind of adventure story, where the hero doesn’t know she’s a hero and discovers herself on her journey.

This book is labeled for ages 7 – 10 and might work well as a read-aloud for slightly younger kids, too.

126 pages, First Second Books

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