Review by Jamie McNeil
Yakari is a boy from the Sioux Indian tribe, much like any other boy his age except that he’s able to talk with and understand animals. In a dream Yakari meets a rabbit named Nanabozho, the self-proclaimed Great Rabbit and his friend Rainbow’s spirit totem, who requests Yakari’s help. Rainbow wanted to see the white bears far to the North, so Nanabozho gave her a gift of a pair of magic moccasins that could take her anywhere. These moccasins keep you walking until you get what you want, and now Rainbow has wandered off into the dream world by herself. Together Nanabozho and Yakari will have to follow Rainbow’s trail through the dream world and bring her home.
There is no point trying to make complete sense of scripter Job’s (Andre Jobin) plot. It’s flummoxing because it is meant to be, and conveys that strangeness anyone who has had a crazy dream can relate to. It baffles like a dream would, but the dialogue is still mystical and engaging. Nanabozho’s reply to Yakari’s comment that he is extraordinary is “Yes! I am!” The rabbit’s response to a compliment is “That compliment will be going in one ear, but it won’t be going out the other!” It is whimsical and charming, Nanabozho’s confidence and mischievous streak shining through.
This is, however, artist Derib’s stage. While Job provides the ideas and the dialogue, Derib is responsible for keeping the story feeling like a dream. One moment Yakari and Nanabhozo are ant-size and in danger of being stepped on by other dreamers, the next they are giants striding through the dreamscape before following arrows into the distance or travelling in flying canoes to wild places. Derib’s almost constant change of perspectives is magnificent, the landscape altering flawlessly from one page to the next. Dreamscapes feature in other Yakari books but this is a complete dream world from beginning to end with a happy surreal quality to it. Like many of the earliest Yakari books, Nanabozho has that wonderful numinous sense to it that enhances its appeal and charm while remaining visually stunning. This is a prime example of just what a good artist Derib is, with so many beautifully imaginative scenes in open flowing frames. It provides the fun and enjoyable experience children love.
While Yakari and the Grizzly follows in terms of original publication, Cinebook has published Yakari: Little Thunder’s Secret next, another cracking adventure story.