Over the Garden Wall #19
A fish who fishes has found himself hunting a monster after all the sea creatures go into hiding.
Creators: Pat McHale, Kiernan Sjursen-Lien, Cara McGee, Whitney Cogar
Reader Appeal: Ages 8-12
Publisher Rating: N/A
The front of this comic immediately got my attention, and not because it was flashy or full of action. The gentleness of the cover, featuring a tea party hosted by a garden gnome, drew me in. The muted earth-toned watercolors created a sense of peace and wonder. And while I was unfamiliar with this title, seeing it was a Cartoon Network original, I felt safe that comic was appropriate for children.
My oddly high expectations going into this comic didn’t go unmet. Out of all the kid’s comics I’ve read, I haven’t found a storyline I’ve enjoyed more than this one. It was innocent, unadulterated and filled with child-like adventure. It’s precisely the type of comic I would love for my nine-year-old to be reading.
The story starts off meeting the world’s most perfect narrator: a fancy horse with glasses and a velvet robe. Unsurprisingly, he’s chosen to narrate the story in the form of poetry. What is surprising is the protagonist: a fish who fishes. No, no, no--don’t worry. He doesn’t fish for fish. He catches crawdads instead. When all the sea creatures inexplicably go into hiding, the fish is left seeking answers. Will he find what he's looking for or will he find himself in deep trouble?
Children will be enthralled by the sheer whimsy of Over the Garden Wall. A fish who fishes? How hilarious is that? But parents will, more importantly, appreciate the imagination-safe environment that the fairy tale nature of this comic creates. Nothing is off limits! The wackiness of the storyline encourages children to enter a world where the only norm is being abnormal. That's something to love!
Another great thing about this comic was the overall design aesthetic. The softened vibe created by the water-color cover carried through the entire issue. The illustrations were simplistic while remaining bright and friendly. The balance McGee and Cogar created between color and calmness enhanced the story, instead of driving it.
The only thing I can even attempt to complain about is the poetry. The verse wasn't annoying. In fact, I loved it! But a few lines didn’t seem to flow. Something was off with their cadence, throwing off the pace of the story. However, it’s understandably a challenge to write an entire comic book in rhyme so I can cut Sjursen-Lien some slack.
Parents--this comic comes with high recommendations for your mid-elementary to early-middle school students. It’s wholesome, has a sense of humor, and encourages creativity. In a fast-paced world full of technology, it’s lovely to slow down and read a fanciful story ever once in a while. One note, though: if your child is very easily scared, just flip through an issue before handing it over. Fairy tales usually come with a monster and some kiddos might be sensitive to that!
Let's Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this comic book:
• This story’s about a fish who enjoys fishing. What’s something you like to do?
• Tell about a time that you’ve thought a person was mean or scary when you first met them. Were they friendlier when you got to know them better?
• The fish feels out of place on dry land. Have you ever felt out of place before?
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