cover image The Dam Keeper

The Dam Keeper

Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsuma. First Second, $19.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-62672-426-6

Kondo and Tsutsuma expand on the world of their Oscar-nominated animated short film of the same name, about a young pig who keeps his town safe from a terrifying black fog. The school-age pig is essentially tethered to the dam that protects Sunrise Valley; designed by his late father, the dam’s windmill requires regular winding, isolating the already-lonely pig, who also fears becoming “crazy” like his father. After the surging fog sweeps the pig, his fox best friend, and a combative hippo classmate outside the safe confines of their town, their understanding of the larger world is reshaped by what they discover. Though created digitally, the panels have a rich, painterly quality that never looks away from the story’s many moments of emotional turmoil or actual peril, particularly when the pig confronts the spectral presence of his father or the raging fog itself. The tug-of-war between light and dark extends out of the plot and right into the images in a haunting story that contrasts the power of friendship with the weight of responsibility and the capacity for growth. Ages 7–11. (Sept.)