Love and Pain

"Good-bye, Chunky Rice" by Craig Thompson is a bittersweet graphic novel of love and longing. The main character, Chunky Rice, leaves his love Dandel to find out where he belongs. Chunky is a shy turtle and Dandel is a mouse deer. They are sweetly drawn, and Craig Thompson communicates the piquancy of the situation from the perspective of the one leaving and from the one left behind.

Chunky travels by boat and a cast of unforgettable characters are also aboard. There's Ruth and Livonia, the conjoined twins who have had to learn to get along with each other. Conjoined though they are, the twins are individuals and their moods and desires often conflict. Also on board is Captain Chuck, a scheming thief whose only redeeming quality is his seamanship.

Captain Chuck's brother, Solomon, is the most haunted character in the book. The abuse he took from his father is told in flashbacks. Even though he is an adult when Chunky sets out, the damage inflicted on Solomon is still raw. Thompson's brilliance shows through in the depiction of Solomon.

This book will probably bring a tear to your eye.  Read it through first before sharing it with children to make sure they can understand the themes and put the violence in context.

--Julie C., Headquarters

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