The New York Times Book Review
The story is a catalog of [Alan and Leah's] time together, and perhaps of the books parents might have read themselves when they were younger. It could be a great way to introduce kids to the masterpieces of the past. Or you could just enjoy the story on its own merits. There are plenty of them.
A young brother and sister in their nightclothes (Alan and Leah) awake without explanation in a magical land of illogic and misrule from which they must struggle to find their way home. Is this another artist drinking from the well of Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie? Two factors keep Nytra’s book from falling into this seen-it trap of calculated whimsy and immaturity-by-choice. First, the intricate flowerings and soulfully etched forest backgrounds of the art make the black-and-white pages sing as though they were drawn in a rainbow of colors. Second, the unhurried and delicately paced narrative, which proceeds from the moment Alan and Leah awake in a storybook forest of wonder and terror and are directed in the first stage of their journey by a large talking stone toad. After that, their catalogue of amazement ranges from giant pet bees with the ability to steal one’s words to a grouping of fey, upright, talking lions in the gear and demeanor of Versailles-ready dandies. To stick the landing, Nytra’s serene ending manages to be worthy of its glorious beginning. His cavalcade of dreamscapes is a rich and beguiling experience that deserves multiple immersions. Ages 8–up. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
The intricate flowerings and soulfully etched forest backgrounds of the art make the black-and-white pages sing as though they were drawn in a rainbow of colors...To stick the landing, Nytra’s serene ending manages to be worthy of its glorious beginning. His cavalcade of dreamscapes is a rich and beguiling experience that deserves multiple immersions.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Winsor McKay was a comics pioneer whose early experimentation with the form nearly predated the form itself. McKay’s spirit, along with his dream-inspired imagery, lives on through Nytra, whose remarkable debut taps into the same unearthly environment with a similarly enchanting effect. . . .The extraordinarily delicate and fine-lined art incorporates touches of manga aesthetic so that, like the story itself, it merges timeless narrative elements to craft something wonderfully innovative. TOON took a chance on a brand-new talent to create the first of their ever-so-slightly more mature graphic novel line and it’s paid off with a smashing success.
—Booklist (starred review)
Children's Literature - Kathie M. Josephs
The story begins with Leah and Alan waking up in an enchanted forest. They have no idea where they are, but a stone frog that can talk and tells them that to get back home they must stay on the path. On their journey, they encounter very unusual animals and insects. After walking for a while, they become hungry and leave the trail when they see a house. They are hoping there will find food there, but instead they see giant bees. The home owner is a sweet old lady who offers them cookies. When Alan starts explaining how they got there, a giant bee steals his words. Leah fights the bee to get her brother's words back and when that happens, the reader will learn that the old woman is not who she appears to be. There is one obstacle after another. Throughout the story, the children learn about working together, cooperating, facing dangers, and growing up. The illustrations are just beautiful. They look like they should be framed and hanging on a wall. The story is great for both boys and girls and would be a wonderful gift. It is written in graphic style which will lend itself to both reluctant readers and those who already enjoy the format. Reviewer: Kathie M. Josephs
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Leah and her younger brother, Alan, awake to find their beds relocated to the middle of a lush forest. They soon come across a stone frog that guides them toward their home. It's not easy. Their long, strange trip is full of bees, fanciful lions, and a subway ride with dressed-up sea life-all presented in out-of-whack proportions. After they make a narrow escape when an entire town-buildings, streets, and all-comes alive, the story ends with our hero and heroine back in their beds as a new day begins. The Alice in Wonderland comparisons are clear, as the children encounter unusual characters and bizarre situations in their travels. It's a world long on enchantment but rather short on plot. The black-and-white pen-and-ink illustrations are astounding in their intricacy. Tiny pen strokes amass to create rich landscapes and characters. The plot may come second, but the journey here is the whole point. A surprising, and visually stunning, trip.—Travis Jonker, Wayland Union Schools, MI
Nytra doesn't stray far from overt Carrollian influences in his graphically presented adventures of two temporarily lost children. Waking beneath a tree and shrunk to thumb size, Leah and her easily distracted little brother Alan follow the directions of several stone frogs to get back home. Their path isn't as direct as it might be, though. Along the way they anger a Bee Lady--depicted Red Queen–style with a large head and stubby, neckless body--exchange courtesies with a group of refined teddy bears (or maybe lions?) in elaborate 18th-century dress, ride atop giant rabbits, and take a subway ride in a train filled with stiffly silent sea life clad in Victorian-era garb. In an eerie climax, they race through cobblestone streets lined with buildings that abruptly warp into towering, glowering faces. Looking small and wearing traditional nightclothes in the white-bordered black-and-white panels, the two children make their way through oversized woods and urban scenes depicted in marvelous, finely drawn detail. The storytelling does not match the illustrations in mastery; Nytra ends his odyssey with an abrupt return to a spacious bedroom and then a handsome but anticlimactic pull back to view the children's country estate at sunrise. Not much here for plot, but fans of the art of Tenniel and his modern descendants (Maurice Sendak, Charles Vess) will find much to admire in this U.S. debut. (Graphic fantasy. 8-11)