One night, a girl appears in the forest, dancing on the lake. The animals have never seen her before. She’s a ghost, but undoubtedly human – probably best to leave her alone. Wise Owl thinks she looks confused and scared, so he goes to talk to her. The girl can’t remember a thing about what happened to her, and she is grateful for Owl’s help, but confused too. She does remember that people don’t go out of their way to help others. Owl doesn’t think that’s true. Eventually they find a house, with a young woman inside, defending it against a man who wants to take it from her. What is the Ghost’s connection to this place? Can they help the woman who currently lives there?

This was a unique read. Let’s start with the layout. There are no panels like in a traditional graphic novel. Instead, the whole page is one big illustration, in what appears to be watercolor and colored pencil, with speech bubbles peppered throughout. Sinuous brushstrokes move softly through the pages and gently guide the reader from one speech bubble to the next. I read it twice (it’s very short) just to study the art and how it connected the text in such a subtle, non-invasive, yet wholly pervasive way. I am in thrall of the masterful craftsmanship that went into this graphic novel.

The Ghost, the Owl (pg. 5).

The story was pretty open-ended. Enough is explained so the reader is placed appropriately in the story, but just enough is left out so the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about various elements, including the ending. I could recommend it to a variety of age groups. I enjoyed it immensely as an adult, but I would easily give it to a middle-schooler because of the short length and the discussions of selflessness and man vs. nature that could start with this book. High schoolers could talk about more of the same, but would better appreciate the folklore inspiration for the story and the open-ended writing. Beautifully rendered and highly recommended.

– Kathleen

Franco and Sara Richard. The Ghost, the Owl. 2018.