“Baby Bjornstrand” by Renee French
Children finding/meeting/befriending a monster is a reoccurring trope in children’s fiction. For one thing, the monster can represent a lot of things–lost innocence, wisdom, loneliness, sometimes even childhood itself. Renee French‘s Baby Bjornstrand takes the trope in familiar waters, but somehow makes it feel new. Her trademark soft shading style has the look of a children’s book without actually being made for kids, and her penchant for broken narratives gives the comic a surrealistic edge.
In the comic, three children live in what looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the water is deadly (“I can’t go into the water at night,” says one of them) and the sky is consistently overcast. One day, the kids come across Baby Bjornstrand, an adorable bird-like monster who only says one word, “Hooo.” The monster becomes their new plaything–they feed it, attempt to climb on it, and create “fake” versions of the monster when its presence isn’t available to them.
On the surface, Baby Bjornstrand doesn’t appear to be a comic of great substance. Its fractured narrative style–a result of its webcomic origins–keeps the comic from delivering the full graphic novel experience. However, there’s an odd humor to the comic that, when you add them up, reveal a cohesive energy. Equal parts clever and cute, Baby Bjornstrand is a coming of age story that doesn’t need to beat you over the head with its message.
The comic is currently on sale via Koyama Press.