________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 13 . . . .March 3, 2006


The Red Rock: A Graphic Fable.

Tomio Nitto.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2006.
36 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88899-669-1.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

** /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.



This book is not really a graphic novel as its title suggests, but rather it is a picture book with a moral, directed at older children.

     Old Beaver climbs to a hilltop to admire the valley and riverbank that have always been his home, only to overhear developers talking about clearing the trees and building the area up for some unspecified human purpose. An army of animated insects and mammals tries to fend off the encroachment on their natural surroundings, but the bulldozers just keep on working. A young eco-activist (introduced briefly as "the little girl in the city," without further explanation) tries to help but finds her efforts are useless until her wish on the evening star conjures up "Super Beaver."

     The centre section of the book consists of five pages of wordless comic strip art in black ink on tan paper. This part of the story sees Super Beaver taking on the Evil Capitalist, whose teeth spell out G-R-E-E-D, and shaming him into becoming G-R-E-E-N when he sees the effects his development has had on the animals' habitat.

     The message here is a pretty heavy-handed one, and the simplistic style of writing lacks poetry or flow:

Old Beaver was fed up. He called a meeting.

“Those greedy guts just want our land to make money,” snarled Wildcat.

“They'll never change,” barked Fox. “They don't even know what nature is.”

“Will they even notice when the nature's all gone?” growled Bear. “I doubt it.”

“I just want to fight them,” trembled Rabbit.

     The colour art that makes up the main part of the book is generally unsophisticated, although the double-spread of anxious bugs, a frog and a woodpecker looking out on the clear-cut has some feeling behind it. The comic-strip portion looks more like the kind of thing one might find in a college newspaper than in a book from one of Canada's best-known publishers.

     Tomio Nitto is billed on the jacket copy as an award-winning graphic artist, with credits from national newspapers and magazines. Storytelling does not appear to be his forte. The Red Rock may have a place in upper primary ecology studies, but not in most general library collections.

Recommended with reservations.

Ellen Heaney is Head of Children's Services at the New Westminster Public Library in New Westminster, BC.

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

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