Review by Jamie McNeil
Yakari, his friend Rainbow, and his trusty steed Little Thunder are skipping stones on the lake. When Rainbow trounces Yakari in a spectaular display of “girl power”, he deflects attention away from his bruised pride by suggesting they all go examine a hilly headland on the edge of the lake. While taking in the view from the top a storm breaks, forcing the trio to take shelter from the torrential rain. When the weather clears they find themselves cut off from the mainland by floods and they aren’t the only ones prisoners on this new island – a moose family is also stranded, their fawn Little Birch’s leg broken by a falling tree. Deciding to stay and help Little Birch and his parents instead of leaving when they can is a difficult decision. It’s made even more dangerous when they discover that the Moose herd’s arch enemy, a cruel and wily wolverine, is also on the island and feeling rather peckish.
Job scripts a straightforward story with a surprising amount of tension despite the simple dialogue. An innocent in danger, trapped children and natural fears, like thunderstorms, all contribute. Derib’s night time sequences are beautiful as always, definitely helping to convey the primal fear thunder and lightning evokes with stark flashes of light and brief glimpses of colour when lightning flashes. Derib mastered his trade in Peyo’s studio (creator of The Smurfs), the lovely motion and detail familiar from those adventures vibrantly visible here. He crafts some grand vistas using full page panels of beautifully illustrated scenery or a herd of stampeding Moose. A small regret is that Derib uses smaller panels more frequently, which detracts from the effect of the bigger panels, diminishing the serious threat our cast face, although Derib’s work remains good at any size or angle. The Moose are large animals and when they are drawn in large panels, the effect is quite wonderful, but of course it’s impractical to produce large panels all the time. Derib splices these with close-ups of heads or part of the features. It does work, but its not quite as spectacular.
The formulaic plot and simplistic dialogue may irk older readers, but is perfect for youngsters – Derib’s and Job’s intended audience. Children who can’t read yet are attracted by the illustrations, and dialogue easy to read aloud at bedtime. It’s not on the same grand scale as the preceding Land of the Wolves but The Island Prisoners is one of those rare stories that does improve with each reading, giving it a classic appeal.
Yakari sets off on a mountain adventure in Yakari and the White Fleece.