The Dam Keeper is a new middle grade graphic novel based on a 2015 Oscar nominated short film by Robert Kondo and Daisuke Tsutsumi. The book is being released on Sept 26, 2017 by First Second books, a Macmillion company. I must admit I had never heard of the short film the book is based on, but I’m not sure that is a bad thing. Having seen it may have colored my appreciation for this graphic novel.
The first thing you notice about this book is the tone; it is dark. It took me by surprise, as it is a middle grade story, but the darkness is not too much. The second thing you notice is the beautiful art. I mean,it is just full of lush and lovely drawings. Even the dark tones are beautifully done. And then we do see a bit of lightness, the shift is almost intense.
The story is that of Pig, an outcast in his town, and his duty to man keep the dam. His father was the original dam keeper, but when the darkness that the dam is supposed to keep back takes his father, Pig is all that is left. He takes his job seriously, his duty to keep the people of the town safe is important to him. Even if they do not care. Pig has only one person on his side, Fox. His only friend, Fox tries to get Pig to be a bigger part of the community he protects, but Pig struggles.
When an accident occurs and Pig, Fox and Hippo, a friend of Fox but a bully to Pig, end up outside the dam chaos ensues. This is the first book of I’m not sure how many, so this is just a set up for what appears to be an adventure story, with a bit of redemption thrown in as well.
As the beginning of what will be a bigger adventure, the story works very well. It pulled me and my ten year old daughter in equally, and had us both rooting for Pig. She noted the dark tone as well, but it didn’t stop her from continuing to the end. We both recommend this story and are looking forward to the sequel when it comes out.
** Sorry about the photo quality, it is hard to take pictures of a new book that doesn’t lay flat.