Alone in Space: A Collection

Avery Hill. Jul. 2021. 324p. Tr $32.99. ISBN 9781910395585.
Gr 7 Up–This compilation of Eisner Award–winning artist Walden’s early work offers a look at her artistic influences and evolution. Short comics form the bulk of the book, including several created when she was a teen. The opening entry, “The End of Summer,” influenced by Little Nemo in Slumberland creator Winsor McCay, uses intensely detailed and softly dreamlike art to depict a family’s decline during a yearslong lockdown in their palace. Studio Ghibli cofounder Hayao Miyazaki also inspires the immersive fantasy worlds Walden creates in this and other tales. Unbound by proportion or panels, the author/illustrator portrays cats large enough to ride on and people who dwarf the cityscapes. Other comics tackle self-acceptance, identity, and growth. “I Love This Part” and “What It’s Like To Be Gay in an All Girls Middle School” use soft linework and limited color to explore the awkwardness of girls learning to embrace their queerness. In all, the collection shows a clear visual and narrative line between this work and Walden’s full-length graphic novels Spinning and On a Sunbeam. Though race and ethnicity are not explicitly noted, with few exceptions Walden’s characters appear to be white. An illustrated Q&A between Walden and the Center for Cartoon Studies and a gallery of her sketches provide even more insight into how she approaches her art.
VERDICT Aspiring artists and fans of Walden’s other books will enjoy this intimate peek into the creative trajectory of a brilliant author and illustrator.

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