The art will strongly appeal to fans of Shaun Tan. Soft, earth colors are spread across the pages showing a small, plump pig with an air of aching grief, a cheery orange fox, and a clumsy, huge hippo who sometimes seems to be trying to make friends, but just can't communicate outside of hitting or yelling. The landscapes are haunted, with a looming horizon of black fog rising over the towering structures of the dam, a strange and frightening frog who could be alive or could be a zombie, and the constant company of Pig's father, a shadow that blows into ash whenever he looks too closely.
The story ends on a huge cliffhanger and I want to find out what comes next - but I admit that I'm skeptical about audience for this one. Reviews put it at the middle grade level, roughly ages 9-12, but this is an intense story with a lot of death, grief, and very dark moments. On the other hand, it has a child-like quality in the interactions of the three main characters that seem to point it at a younger audience. The publisher puts it at ages 7-11, but it would have to be a very special seven-year-old that I handed this to! It's based on the Oscar short of the same name and ultimately I'd say the audience is really adults - it's one of those books that isn't really directed at a specific audience, but a gatekeeper, parent or librarian, will know which children will appreciate it.
Verdict: Basically, I want to know what happens next and it's a beautiful book, but it's creepy and sad as all get out, you have been warned. I've had one kid read it have much the same reaction.
ISBN: 9781626724266; Published 2017 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library