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Salamander Dream
Written and Drawn by Hope Larson
Published Adhouse Books; $15.00 USD

Salamander Dream is the first major work by writer/artist Hope Larson. Itís the story of a young girl, Hailey, whose imagination and love of nature bring her to Salamander, one of the forestís magical creatures. But, as the years pass the magic fades and her visits come less often. Itís a coming of age story wrapped in fantasy and illustrated beautifully.

It began as a webcomic at Larsonís The Secret Friend Society website, where it can still be read in its entirety. Though, I hadnít even thought of checking it out until I read the wonderful interview Galaxy contributor Gordon McAlpin conducted with Larson not too long ago. The focus there was mainly on her short history within the medium, with a brief mention of this graphic novel, but it was enough to entice me.

The story is very simple, which was a bit of a relief, often times tales about growing up become so steeped in the drama the characters endure that the reader can walk away feeling too emotionally drained. Fortunately that is not the case here, thereís enough whimsical fantasy that youíre left feeling satisfied and smiling. Not that itís a completely happy tale, itís definitely bittersweet, but Hailey never seems to regret the fact that sheís growing up and instead treasures the memories she created in her magical fantasies.

The art is, by far, the bookís greatest commodity. Larsonís style is very charming, so much so that even the slightly menacing characters (like Salamanderís friend Minnow) donít really seem that way. Itís all very calm and peaceful even when it takes a slightly psychedelic turn. The coloring has a lot to do with that as well. I really enjoyed the black and white art and thought it worked well set against the lime-green spot coloring, and vice versa. There are a few pages and panels that look as if they were done in crayon, which adds to the bookís fantasy, and the opening map, with its childishly drawn trees and outside-the-lines coloring immediately sets the tone for the extraordinary story Larson has crafted.

If the book has any fault, itís that itís entirely too short. My first read through I found it difficult to grasp the strength and passion of the relationship between Hailey and Salamander. Of course, being so short and being such a visual book, that makes it something thatís easy to come back to. Itís definitely a book that gets better the more you read it, and I discovered something new every time I picked it up.

Itís a very typical coming of age story told in such an atypical fashion that it becomes another creature altogether. Itís very surreal, mixing every day life with these magical fantasies and an obvious love and appreciation for nature and the wonders that the forest hold. Larson definitely has a unique, identifiable voice, and if her work here is an example of things to come, I certainly canít wait to see where she takes us next. Grade: 4.5/5

-- Logan Polk

Send review copies to:
Logan Polk
5812 Glenlake Ct.
Columbus Ga 31909

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The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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