STARRED REVIEW
September 26, 2017

Darkness on the edge of town

By Robert Kondo, illustrated by Dice Tsutsumi

Young Pig lives in Sunrise Valley, but his world is filled with darkness in The Dam Keeper, the first of three graphic novels based on a 2015 Oscar-nominated short film. This riveting new story begins five years after the events in the film, focusing on an epic journey undertaken by Pig, his best and only friend, Fox, and her friend Hippo.

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Young Pig lives in Sunrise Valley, but his world is filled with darkness in The Dam Keeper, the first of three graphic novels based on a 2015 Oscar-nominated short film. This riveting new story begins five years after the events in the film, focusing on an epic journey undertaken by Pig, his best and only friend, Fox, and her friend Hippo.

Pig is ostracized in his village, yet he keeps the town safe by operating an ingenious dam that his father built to keep a dark, deadly fog at bay. The fog killed Pig’s mother when he was a baby, and his father, seemingly crazed by grief, eventually walked out into the fog, apparently to his death. Pig, meanwhile, has become the self-sufficient, albeit lonely, dam keeper.

Pig is irritated, however, when Fox brings Hippo to see the dam. Hippo may be Fox’s friend, but he’s Pig’s archnemesis. During the visit a sudden tidal wave of fog blasts Pig, Fox and Hippo into the dangerous, desolate world beyond the dam, and they must band together to find their way back to safety before another wave of fog returns.

Dice Tsutsumi’s stunning illustrations bring a mesmerizing cinematic immediacy to Robert Kondo story, creating an ongoing interplay between light and dark, life and death, hope and despair. The stakes are high, as is the electric tension—this is by no means a book for the faint of heart. That said, Pig, Fox, and even the bullying Hippo are cute, lovable characters that will appeal to older elementary and middle grade students. Within its epic atmosphere, The Dam Keeper explores themes like fear, loneliness, friendship, bravery and bullying in complex, understated ways.

As the book closes, the cliffhangers couldn’t be higher. Might Pig’s father still be alive? Did Pig catch sight of him in the wilderness, leading the trio forward, or was he dreaming? Can the group trust a strange new creature named Van who promises to take them back to Sunrise Valley? And what will they find in a big new city they’re about to enter?

Readers will blaze their way through The Dam Keeper’s thrilling 160 pages and be champing at the bit for the next installment.

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The Dam Keeper

The Dam Keeper

By Robert Kondo, illustrated by Dice Tsutsumi
First Second
ISBN 9781626724266

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