The Last of the Sandwalkers, by Jay Hosler (First Second, April 2015) is more than just a graphic novel about beetles having adventures, although the story is in fact about beetles on a quest.
It is also about:
- science! The crew of beetles, lead by young scientist/inventor Lucy (a great character!), are on a quest for knowledge--what lies outside their beetle city? Are there any other life forms out there past the desert sands? (answer--yes!) Lucy is a lovely young scientist role model, always wondering, thinking, dreaming, observing, and keeping good notes.
--family, friendship, and loyalty. There are not that many graphic novels that address adoption; this one does, as Lucy and her sibling (a huge Goliath beetle, who has a lot more too him than just his bulk), are both adopted. Her parents also are important characters in the story, and loyalty to family (defined flexibly) is a central value of this group of beetles.
--determination. The many vicissitudes of the journey into the wild beyond, which is indeed populated by all manner of creatures, many of whom would like to eat the beetles, do not squelch Lucy and company. They are not whiners; they may be cast down at times, but they persevere.
--the wrongness of letting authoritarian theocracies distort scientific truths. Lucy's society is shaped by a myth that knowledge is dangerous, and that a divinity will punish those who transgress, and those in power falsify evidence and history to keep this the status quo. Lucy's challenge to this story is a clear threat that must be stopped, as ruthlessly as needs be (there is a villainous villain, more dangerous than any natural threat!).
--beetles! I have never been anti-beetle, but I am much more pro-beetle now. Hosler is an entomologist, and incorporates a lot of information about beetles into this story, in a learning is fun kind of way. I enjoyed the notes at the back lots too. The book, however, will not make anyone more pro-spider than they already are.
My one problem was that I had a hard time getting the hang of which beetle was who, but I am not a good graphic novel reader, cause of preferring to read the words fast rather than look at the pictures.
If you have a child who is repulsed by beetles, this might be a bit much, but if you have a young naturalist 10-14 years old (or so), do offer this one! It also works well for generic graphic novel reading 9th grader (mine has read it twice, and it is a long book of 296 pages, so that is saying something...). There is some disturbing insect on insect violence, that might distress the sensitive younger reader....
I found Last of the Sandwalkers engrossing myself, but I can't help but prefer Hosler's first graphic novel, the lovely and tear-jerking Clan Apis, which I reviewed long long ago in my first year of blogging--it was simpler in story and pictures, and therefore a better fit for my eyes (although my eyes were so teary the whole thing was just a blur by the end of it). Also I like bees more than beetles.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher