MMGM and #IMWAYR: Aquicorn Cove!

I'm going to put my pre-post conversation at the end of the post today—because I'm radical and unpredictable!!! (Or something.)

So let's dive in with a review, then see what else I have to say!

Middle Grade:

Aquicorn Cove

Written and illustrated by K. O'Neill
Graphic novel · 2018

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

From the Eisner Award-winning author of The Tea Dragon Society and Princess Princess Ever After comes AQUICORN COVE, a heartfelt story about learning to be a guardian to yourself and those you love.

When Lana and her father return to their seaside hometown to help clear the debris of a big storm, Lana remembers how much she’s missed the ocean—and the strong, reassuring presence of her aunt. As Lana explores the familiar beach, she discovers something incredible: a colony of Aquicorns, small magical seahorse-like creatures that live in the coral reef. Lana rescues an injured Aquicorn and cares for it with the help of her aunt, who may know more about these strange creatures than she's willing to admit. But when a second storm threatens to reach the town, choices made many years ago about how to coexist with the sea start to rise to the surface. Lana realizes she will need to find the strength to stand on her own, even when it means standing up to the people who she has always relied on to protect her.

· · · · · ·

(Three quick notes! One, this book might skew more towards a chapter book than MG, with its brief 90-page length. Two, the book description on Goodreads has a spoiler in it, which is why I included one from Amazon above! Three, there is a board game based on this book, which I forgot to mention below but is just so cool.)

I've never read a K. O'Neill book I didn't adore. The Moth Keeper? Just gave a copy to a friend. The Tea Dragon Society? Ten out of ten. Princess Princess Ever After? I was just recommending it a few weeks ago! So it's no surprise that Aquicorn Cove hit every mark for me as well.

Something that struck me in this book's breezy 90 pages is just how cinematic the panels are. Most of us are used to reviewing books, even visual works like graphic novels, based on their plot and characters. But graphic novels are powerful, in that they can convey feeling entirely visually, on a whole other layer than the story layer. The panels in Aquicorn Cove accomplish many things. One conveys the feeling of staring off a balcony, pensively. Others set the scene not by zooming out, but by zooming in, highlighting the little objects like kitchen tools that make a place feel like home. Still other panels show a character living her day-to-day life but without her face showing, because her emotions, her soul haven't followed her to the new life she's trying so hard to make work. Every page of Aquicorn Cove is filled with enough emotion to live in (or at least to return to again and again with re-reads), and it's due in no small part to O'Neill's brilliant skill with this medium.

Aquicorn Cove is also a visually vibrant book, filled with every color of the rainbow, and the many scenes that show the ocean are the most beautiful of all. This book is a perfect beach read, but less so because it is short and hopeful (although it is) and more so because it has a keen understanding of how much power and magic the ocean contains, and how deeply connected it is to our hearts as humans. I know when I'm lucky enough to visit the beach, I feel a kind of peace I almost never get to feel, because it feels like I'm home—like I'm wrapped up in the arms of a planet that has enough bravery and strength and breath to keep me going. And I feel like Aquicorn Cove understands this feeling I'm trying to convey better than pretty much anything else I've read.

I also appreciate that this book doesn't just celebrate the ocean, it also asks us to take better care of it. In language any reader can understand, Aquicorn Cove explores the bystander effect, the complex push-and-pull of human success vs. the ocean's health, and what we need to do to save our planet. And although the story has a slight magical component, with creatures called aquicorns that I'd say are one-part seahorse, one-part O'Neill's tea dragons, the book still does a skillful job exploring conservation as it can look in the real world. The concise but informative back matter on coral reefs and their protection definitely helps on that front. This book makes me want to do a better job taking care of our ocean.

I tried to start another graphic novel this week and had to put it down before I got 20 pages in, because it was hitting every emotional nerve. And part of why I gravitated to a book by K. O'Neill instead is that they imbue their books with a degree of compassion and hope that is near-superhuman. A few years ago, I read an incredible book, Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi, where a character says that "hope is a discipline"—and it's a discipline O'Neill has clearly practiced. In every one of their graphic novels, O'Neill leans into characters' capacities to love, to listen to one another, to care for one another, and to change—and they show these aspects of humanity so clearly that it's hard to argue humanity could ever not be okay. Which is not to say O'Neill diminishes the problems we face in this world—besides the fate of our planet, Aquicorn Cove also tackles grief, and where we find home, and how we keep going and find purpose when things feel difficult. (In just 90 pages, I might add!) I often say that my favorite books show the most difficult aspects of our world and find hope anyway—and O'Neill does exactly that, but somehow makes the fear so manageable and the hope so big that it doesn't even feel like a dichotomy. It just feels like we're lucky to exist—to have these human lives we get to make the most of.

And to seal the deal, as always, O'Neill is intentional about diversity, with queer characters and characters of color playing a major role in this story.

Seriously, Aquicorn Cove hits every mark! I was hoping to find a short but meaningful story to read last-minute so I'd have a review for you all, and I couldn't have grabbed a better one off my shelves. This book has the peace of the ocean, the delight of seaside life and reconnection with family, and the hope of human compassion and resilience. Please carve out an hour or two to fit this one-of-a-kind story into your life—you won't regret it.

The Kidlit Lovers' Meetup!

I'm turning into a YouTuber, y'all, but not in a literal sense—it's just that instead of "like and subscribe," I'm going to be mentioning the Kidlit Lovers' Meetup in like every post! Mostly I'm doing this to make sure nobody who's interested in joining us misses out because they didn't see it was happening.

So, now you see it's happening! And what is it? It's a chance for us kidlit book bloggers and readers to get together on Zoom and talk about books, reading, blogging, and more. And the meetups will be on Sunday, June 23, 2024 from 5-6 PM Pacific, and Wednesday, July 24, 2024 from 4-5 PM Pacific.


If you're reading this post, you're part of the target audience for these meetups, so I really hope I'll have the chance to see you there!

Random thoughts:

I didn't read anyone else's blog posts last week, which I do apologize for. I don't even have a good reason! I'd tell you what the reason was, but honestly, last Monday feels like 30 years ago, so I can't even remember.

Part of why last Monday feels like 30 years ago is that, between Tuesday and Saturday, I did the following:
  • Attended a two-day conference
  • Attended a half-day conference (yes, a different one)
  • Went to a social event for Pride month (it was at the library, which made it feel way less intimidating!)
  • Hung out with an amazing friend
  • Had therapy
  • Worked at my part-time job (did I mention I have that now?!)
  • Took 5 Ubers and also drove myself to get where I needed to go
So yeah! You'd think I'd be dead after all of that, but weirdly, I still have plenty of energy. But I could certainly do with a more relaxed week ahead, which thankfully is the plan! Still, I'm glad I was able to do all the things I wanted to do without burning out, because they were actually all good experiences!

That's it for now—I hope your week is filled with good books, interesting things to do, and time for rest! ✨✨

Comments

  1. It sounds like you had a busy week. Thanks for sharing Aquicorn Cove with us this week. It's cool that there's a board game based on it too.

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  2. I loved Aquicorn Cove and feel the same about every K. O'Neill title (I still need to read The Moth Keeper, which Cheriee shared this week. I know it's somewhere in my classroom library....). Their books have such a nourishing worldview, and I think it's just what you notice: characters do make an intentional practice of hope and compassion in the face of challenges. Personal challenges, yes, but also the large social challenges that there are no easy solutions for. Your past week also sounds wildly busy. I am grateful for these regular Monday posts to keep me reading. As of Saturday morning, I had read zero books this week but managed to read 3 over the weekend because I knew I needed something to write about on Monday!

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  3. You sure are radical and unpredictable! Never feel shamed for missing anyone's blog posts given your recent busy schedule. So glad you found the time to feature AQUICORN COVE. I'd heard about the book previously but just through world of mouth. It sounds perfect for reluctant readers.
    I haven't signed up yet for the KidLit Lover's Meetup because my summer is full of commitments and during that time I am mentoring a 16 year old through some challenges in his life. In case things change I will sign up. Can't wait to hear about it if I do end up missing the gathering.

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  4. I had not heard of Aquicorn Cove, but have played their Tea Dragon Society Card Game, which is fun. Lovely review and congrats in getting so much accomplished this week. I unfortunately was delayed in getting my MMGM in but do have a review of The Cookie Crumbles posted today if you feel like checking it out. Have a lovely week.

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  5. I often go weeks without even posting, let alone reading other people's posts - life gets busy, and there's only so many hours in the day! You don't want to spread yourself too thin. 🙂 I haven't been to any conferences in years, but I've just registered for a virtual one in the summer, and I'm excited!!

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  6. Aquicorn Cove sounds great. Near the ocean is one of my favorite places to be - like you I find it very peaceful - so I appreciate that focus of the book.

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  7. I too loved Aquicorn Cove! Honestly, I love K O'Neill for all the reasons you mentioned above. The deliberate diversity, the honesty about the human condition, the hope and of course, the gorgeous artwork.
    Life sometimes gets in the way of what we thing we ought to be doing. It's important to cut ourselves some slack! I try to respond to everyone's posts, but doing it thoughtfully takes time, so I just do the best I can do.

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    Replies
    1. I signed up for the zoom meetings, but am not guaranteeing I will make it since I don't know for certain when grandkids will be here.

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