Levine Querido. Sept. 2021. 400p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781646141135; pap. $18.99. ISBN 9781646141128.
Gr 6 Up–Translated from Finnish, this graphic novel import blends Finnish and Karelian mythology and folklore in a stunning package. As the book opens, Umi, a mother bear, hunts a moose and brings it back to the den for her cubs, including Poorling, a shadowy humanoid creature with a shock of hair and an inquisitive mind. Desperate to be a real bear like the others, Poorling secretly practices shape-shifting and other magic with a waterbird called Scaup. As Scaup teaches Poorling songs of the old gods, Poorling discovers that she is at the center of the divine Emuu’s plot to bring Umi back to the heavens. Jarring violence suggests that things may not go as planned—for the gods or for Poorling. But is it too late for Poorling to stay with her mother forever? The first graphic novel from Levine Querido, Ahokoivu’s 13-chapter epic is a stylish standout. Her style blends cute and creepy, with a darkly whimsical story line akin to Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon films. The restricted, grayscale palette mixes ink, watercolor, and digital techniques to create a distinctive look. Pops of color—red, yellow, rainbow—electrify the pages with magic and swirling hand-lettered text. The inventive paneling, usually rounded and oblong and without borders, deftly incorporates setting and brings the forest to life through layering. A concluding note on characters’ names provides additional information, though not enough to contextualize the folklore for unfamiliar readers.
VERDICT A visual feast—and artistic feat—best suited for larger graphic novel collections.

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