Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Graphic Novel: The Dam Keeper

The Dam Keeper is an unusual graphic novel, in part because of its unique genesis. We are used to seeing book-to-movie adaptations, but this story was originally an animated short film created by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi. Last year, the two teamed up to adapt their 2015 Oscar nominated short into a series of books. I recently read the first book in the series and found the original dark fairy tale compelling.

Pig is the dam keeper, like his father before him. Still just a kid in school, Pig carries a huge responsibility: to keep the dam in working order to hold back the black fog that threatens to engulf their small, peaceful town. His mother died, and his father - the previous dam keeper - walked off into the fog and was never seen again. Pig leads a lonely existence, except for his best friend, Fox. She is popular and lives a normal life with a loving family, but she doesn't tease Pig for his unusual circumstances, like the other kids do. After Pig's calculations show that the fog is returning with an alarming frequency, the two friends - along with the local bully, Hippo - are washed from the dam and outside of the town in the biggest wave of dark fog yet. Now, they need to find their way back...AND figure out how to save the town.

Sample pages from The Dam Keeper

Although the animal characters are cute and are clearly kids themselves, I intentionally left off an age-range here, because I think The Dam Keeper is great for all ages (its product details recommend 7 - 11 years). In fact, the many dark and sinister scenes of the fog might be a bit frightening for the youngest kids. Many of the pages that don't show the dark fog, though, are colorful and cheery, providing a sharp contrast to the danger that threatens the town. The characters are endearing, and Pig's struggles - other than the fog - are things that all kids can relate to. My only complaint (which is really a compliment) is that this engaging book was over too soon, leaving me wondering what would happen to Pig, Fox, and Hippo next on their journey. I guess I have to wait for book 2 (due out July 10, 2018) to find out!

155 pages, First Second

You can watch the Oscar-nominated animated short The Dam Keeper for $1.99 on Amazon. My husband and I just watched it, and it was very good - though the plot was quite different than the book, which is setting up a longer adventure story.

Or you can purchase the book from an indie bookstore:
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  1. A good graphic novel is so pleasing especially when the illustrations make the story come alive.

    1. Yes! This one has beautiful drawings, as did the film.