Written & Drawn by Katie O’Neill.
When Lana and her father return to their seaside hometown to help clear the debris of a storm, the last thing she expects is to discover a colony of Aquicorns—magical seahorse-like residents of the coral reef. As she explores the damaged town and the fabled undersea palace, Lana learns that while she cannot always count on adults to be the guardians she needs, she herself is capable of finding the strength to protect both the ocean, and her own happiness.
I recently read Katie O’Neill’s previous graphic novel, The Tea Dragon Society and I completely fell in love with the whimsical and beautiful world she created. Aquicorn Cove lives up to my expectaions in spades. I didn’t know a lot about the story going into it. I wasn’t sure if it was a continuation of Tea Dragon Society, or a standalone. You don’t need to read Tea Dragon Society before Aquicorn, though I would recommend reading both eventually.
O’Neill’s work tries to bring reader’s attention to relevant environmental issues. In Aquicorn, those issues are rising temperatures in the ocean and pollution. Aquicorns, being sea dwellers, are of course affected by these changes in their environment. The story centers around the human response to these changes, and human’s responsibility to protect the aquicorns.
The environmental message took me by surprise! I really didn’t know it was coming, and O’Niell does a brilliant job of explaining how the small town bordering Aquicorn Cove could ignore the problems on the ocean floor. The town lives on goods taken from the ocean, so the story has to provide alternatives to their lifestyle. I thought these aspects were addressed with a high amount of sensitivity and realism. The aquicorns aren’t real (sadly), but the response to oceanic destruction certainly should be a reality.
There aren’t enough superlatives to give to the artwork in O’Neill’s work. Her characters and creatures are charming beyond all reason. Some of the women in this book are muscly and tough, and some of the men are willowy and sensitive. Those traits come through clearly in the character design, and I really enjoyed seeing how gender stereotypes were challenged visually. The aquicorns and other ocean dwellers are beautiful, I really wish I could befriend a real aquicorn!
If you are looking for a beautiful book that encourages readers to care for the world around them, look no further than Aquicorn Cove. I cannot wait to see what Katie O’Neill writes next. The Eisner committee made a great choice in nominating this book for Best Publication for Kids Ages 9-12! I am very excited for the next Tea Dragon Society book coming in Fall of 2019. Keep an eye out for that review coming soon to The Convention Collective.