Written By: Katie O’Neill
Illustrated By: Katie O’Neill
Lettering By: Crank!
Page Count: 96 pgs
Published By: Oni Press
Format: Hardcover, Digital
A young girl named Lana and her father return to their coastal hometown, to help their old community repair the damage caused by a recent storm. As Lana takes in the familiar Ocean air and spends some time with her sea-loving Aunt, she recounts the many happy memories she shared with her late mother on this very beach. In a small cove, Lana discovers a small injured sea creature that looks similar to a seahorse. Little does Lana know that this creature is an Aquicorn and her Aunt may know more about their existence than she is letting on.
This is such a beautiful short story from start to finish and certainly carries some emotional moments that will touch anyone, no matter what age the reader is. We learn about a young girl named Lana, who soon after the tragic passing of her mother, she is uprooted from her hometown and starts a new life in the City, which brings more comfort to her father than herself. She yearns for more time back in her hometown, where her Aunt acted as a second mother figure to her. Unfortunately their short visit back, is only for them to be put to work in rebuilding their home and helping old neighbours. Lana soon discovered an injured little sea creature that looked more like a miniature dragon than a seahorse. From here we learn more about these magical creatures known as Aquicorns, from the short experiences Lana has interacting with them, but ultimately the real story begins when Lana’s Aunt talks about her past.
Lana is a strong little girl, who has been through some hard times from the death of a parent, to moving away from her hometown. Lana even admits to herself that she never reached out for help from her father, and just learned to deal with it all herself. All boiling down to the grief she still holds for her mother and acknowledging how much she needs her Aunt in her life. These are important issues she faces, highlighting the fact that it is also important to reach out to others as you do not have to go through such hard times on your own. A lesson I hope all readers, young or old, get from this book. Lana goes through some exceptional character growth in this story because of her realization.
We also meet Auntie Mae, a woman born to live by the sea and is a dependable pillar in the community, who usually supplies the town with fresh fish daily. After receiving a necklace she once lost years ago, we discover just how Mae became close to the leader of the Aquicorns. Without putting any labels on the relationship in the book, Mae and the Aquicorn Queen Aure grow incredibly close. However their opinions on the rapid decay of the coral reef and what is to blame for it, tear them apart for several years. It is only with the interaction of Lana do we see a positive outcome for those living above and below the sea.
As well as being a story that highlights both a childs’ sense of loss and isolation, it is more of an environmental story. Focussing on the negative effects of using plastic nets and over fishing, which in turn has a massive impact on the health of coral reefs. These reefs act as a natural barrier against storms and rough seas, by taking the brunt of the impact before it hits land. There is plenty more valuable information provided at the end of the story, with information links given for reputable sources including the Coral Reef Conservation Alliance and the UN Environment website. As well as encouraging readers to ask their local librarian for book recommendations on the subject.
The creator of this book is New Zealand born author and illustrator Katie O’Neill, who is also an Eisner award winning author. This award is given to people that have been nominated for their talents and creative achievement in the comic book industry. Ms O’Neill was nominated for this prize just last year for this very book. She also won the award twice back in 2018 for her book ‘The Tea Dragon Society’, which won both the Best Webcomic & Best Publication for Kids for ages 9-12 categories. Ms O’Neills other works include ‘Princess Princess Ever After’, ‘The Tea Dragon Festival’, ‘The Tea Dragon Society’ and ‘Dewdrop’, all of which have been released by Oni Press. Infact, ‘Aquicorn Cove’ has also been adapted and released as a Board Game due to its popularity. All of which can be found and bought on the Oni Press website – https://onipress.com/collections/katie-oneill
‘Aquicorn Cove’ is a book that not only focuses on how a young girl begins to adapt to life without her mother, but also shines light on an important environmental issue, with a magical twist. It is also LGBTQ friendly and can be used as an introduction to young readers on how big the World is when it comes to the different kinds of relationships out there. A story that has strong female characters at its core, that leave such an impact on the reader just as much as the illustrations do in supporting the story. I would be proud to give this book to any child, I believe it can be a stable in all book collections.