- Kodi by Jared Cullum
Cullum, Jared Kodi; written and illus. by Jared Cullum. Top Shelf, 2020 [176p] (Kodi) Paper ed. ISBN 9781603094672 $14.99 Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 5-8
Loner Katya doesn't have any friends in her summer home of Alaska (not that she has any back in Seattle, either). When her grandmother insists she put away her comic books and go play outside, Katya stumbles upon a massive Kodiak bear, trapped under a fallen log. After Katya and her grandmother save the gentle creature and dub him Kodi, the bond between girl and bear becomes so strong that Kodi stows away on a boat to follow Katya to the mainland. There he befriends Joshua, an injured fisherman, and while Kodi helps Joshua catch fish to pay the rent, Joshua helps Kodi find his way back to Katya. Readers may be plenty familiar with tales of protagonists befriending wild animals, but this graphic novel shines with watercolor backgrounds and sparse text. Cullum can go pages at a time with only landscapes and character expressions, evoking both the expansive wilderness of Alaska and [End Page 468] the loneliness of the city. Kodi never speaks, but his gestures and expressions leave the reader with no question as to his kind soul and love for his human friends. Grownup characters, all with rounded, exaggerated features, tower over tiny Katya in her oversized clothes, emphasizing her feelings of isolation and fear. While Kodi is also of sizeable proportions, his bulk is more akin to that of a favorite blanket, and later images of him in a striped sailor shirt are adorable enough for an audible awwww. This story of friendship and belonging will please fans of graphic novels, nature lovers, and high/low readers.