March 23, 2018

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Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton | SLJ Review

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redstarCLANTON, Ben. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea. illus. by Ben Clanton. 64p. (A Narwhal and Jelly Book: Bk. 1). Tundra. Oct. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781101918265; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781101918715. POP

cb-gn-clanton-narwhalunicornoftheseaGr 1-3 –Readers new to graphic novels will be richly rewarded with this series opener about a delightfully quirky duo. Earnest and down-to-earth Jelly the jellyfish is the perfect foil for endearingly airheaded Narwhal. Divided into three tales, the book is light on plot but brimming with a fantastically kid-friendly sense of the absurd, from the friends’ first reaction upon meeting each other (“You don’t look like any fish I’ve ever seen, but you do look kind of jelly-ish.” “Look…things like you don’t exist. I mean what is up with that horn?”) to the tale that Narwhal and Jelly spin in their metafictional turn, which has a waffle, a strawberry, and a sea monkey doing battle with a giant robot. The art has a childlike quality, and though Narwhal and Jelly are rendered with simple, thick-lined scrawls, the illustrations are expressive and energetic. Clanton includes just a few panels per page and breaks up some of the action with full-page spreads, resulting in a wonderfully accessible option for kids making their first forays into sequential art. A song (“I am a narwhal/a happy little narwhal!”) and a brief section with facts on jellyfish and narwhals are fun additions (kids will be impressed to learn that the narwhal’s tooth can be up to ten feet long and that the marine mammal can live 90 years). VERDICT An utterly enchanting start to a series that’s bound to be popular among young readers. Readers moving on from Mo Willems’s “Elephant and Piggie” books and Bob Shea’s “Ballet Cat” series will adore this undersea odd couple.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2016 issue.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar ( is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.