Ghost Hog

illus. by Joey Weiser. 168p. Oni. May 2019. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781620106549; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781620105979.
Gr 3–5—With the help of forest spirits Claude and Stanley, Truffles (an anthropomorphic pig) discovers she has become a vengeful ghost after being shot by a hunter. Aware that hauntings are typically caused by unfinished business, Claude and Stanley try to guide Truff on a journey to release her anger toward humans and embrace her new existence. Along the way, the trio learn that Truff's parents and other forest inhabitants have been captured by the malicious demon emperor Mava, who is using them to escape his imprisonment inside a mountain. Soft hues portray the world around the mountains, while life inside is depicted in subdued earth tones punctuated by fiery reds and oranges. Speech bubbles and characters are drawn with bold black outlines that suggest a certainty and strength that the writing lacks. The story explores revenge, forgiveness, and love through ineffective characters whose motivations and growth don't always make sense. Dry humor is attempted but often falls flat and feels out of place against the macabre backdrop of death and vengeance. Some details are never explained, such as why the demon Mava needs others to help him escape his open-door prison. Except for a comment about "piles of dead animals," language is largely inoffensive, and most violence is kept slapstick and impermanent in nature, if not off the page altogether.
VERDICT This uneven quest tale about the power of love struggles to find its tone. An additional purchase.

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