The Exquisite Triumph of Wormboy: An Illustrated Epic

World Galaxy. Nov. 2020. 116p. Tr $29.95. ISBN 9781773490779; pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781773490496.
Gr 6-9–This team-up between artist James Kochalka and former Vermont poet laureate Lea has them alternating between comics and poetry with each page. The title character, a cartoonish worm with a humanlike face, slumbers, finally awakening on page 13; this leisurely pacing may be off-putting to some readers. After leaving his underground home, Wormboy goes on to save his friends Mud and Flick from a bird, then embarks on a series of epic adventures: crossing a pond, encountering a huge fish, climbing a tree. Some of the poems use a handful of lines to describe the action that will be illustrated on the next page, while other poems have multiple stanzas full of description, exposition, and notes to the reader. They act as dialogue with a high-minded narrator and rhyme occasionally. Kochalka’s thick lines, minimalist designs, and large, wordless panels leave little room for error in reading the images. The comics portions would be appropriate to younger readers, though vocabulary such as abjure, consonance, effulgence, languorous, and ichor, along with hell and damn, place this in a higher age range than the visually similar “Owly” series. A poignant page near the end shows water, land, tree, and sky, all phases of Wormboy’s brave journey into epic territory.
VERDICT Verse meets illustration in an animal adventure that sees each format enhance the other.

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