In The Kurdles, Robert Goodin’s all-ages debut graphic novel, an abandoned teddy bear stumbles upon a magical new home. When Sally the bear is tossed from a car window by a screaming child, she resolves to find her way home, adventuring her way instead to Kurdleton, a dreamy forest home that every child has surely dreamed of finding one day. The result is a charming blend of Enid Blyton whimsy and Moominvalley strangeness.
Goodin is best known for his storyboard work in the animation industry, most notably for American Day, The Wild Thornberrys, and Rugrats. His short underground comic, The Man Who Loved Breasts, won acclaim from adult audiences. The Kurdles is a better reflection of his all-ages storytelling proficiency, conjuring up a vibrant cast of delightful characters, from an adorable and no-nonsense teddy bear to a unicorn and a dog-owning, five-legged “pentapus.”
Arriving in her new home, Sally finds her new friends are dealing with a severe crisis—the town itself has sprouted hair, big eyes, and a mouth, and legs may not be far behind. Goodin uses a varying panel structure to terrific effect, reinforcing the monotony of Sally’s life as well as modifying the pace at moments of action. Children will be pleased to realize that when Sally’s life literally crashes into the ground, no damage is done, while parents will be reassured that scary moments turn into a meeting of new friends, alongside a strong message that it pays to take the time to understand those different from ourselves.
This over-sized hardback emphasizes Goodin’s beautiful hand-painted watercolor pages throughout, calling to mind childhood picture books and dreams of soft toys adventuring in the magical forests of the mind. It’s a quirky and gentle tale, mixed with humor throughout.
The Kurdles (978-1-60699-832-8) comes out on May 1st from Fantagraphics.