Review by Jamie McNeil
Yakari and Little Thunder are playing tricks on the industrious beavers (main characters in the previous two books), when an odd looking bird of a kind they have never seen before crashes into the beavers. It declares itself to be a White Pelican who is sick and blown off course, so the beavers take pity on the bird they dub ‘Beaks’, offering him a place to stay until he is well enough to continue his journey. Unfortunately Beaks is rather loud and has unusual ways, so when Yakari returns in the morning the beavers insist he finds somewhere else for the stranger to stay. Eventually all the forest’s denizens are involved, creating a pickle for Yakari who might lose all his old friends for helping this strange new one.
Yakari and the Stranger is about choosing to do the right thing when everybody disagrees with you, Job developing themes of kindness and altruism that run throughout the series in this quasi-commentary on xenophobia. Derib’s illustrations are excellent, catching the essence of the gags and the slapstick comedy of crashes and spills. There are some wonderfully rendered animals looking grumpy and exhausted, with an amazing level of hustle and bustle to the frames. Unfortunately the frames are consistently smaller here than the big frames and whole page illustrations Derib employed in earlier books. Couple this with Job’s plot device of playing on the old gag line of stranger is sick – characters offer help – stranger becomes an inconvenience, and you have a story that lacks the zest of its predecessors, funny at first but quickly overworking its gag. That’s not to say The Stranger lacks charm, because it does still have style, quirky detail and a well paced plot offering some magic even if it isn’t the best of Derib and Job’s work.
Cinebook has now returned to printing in the creators’ original publication order with cracking winter adventure waiting in Yakari and the Land of the Wolves.