To begin with, I can’t wait until my son is of appropriate age to read Bera: The One-Headed Troll. It’s probably one of the first books meant for children that didn’t just outright say the moral of the story. It is clear and present if you pay attention to it, but there isn’t that strange moment in which a character breaks out exposition to make sure you got it. Bera is an emotional journey for sure and not just for the main character of Bera. As the reader I felt hope, sadness, joy, and a sense of family. And sure I could point out that I have a new family and that’s why the story touched me so deep, but I don’t think it’s that at all. Eric Orchard actually crafts a story that is just so wonderfully deep that it can crack the hardest of hearts.
Bera is the pumpkin gardener for the Troll King. As the narration is quick to tell us, the story isn’t about the King or the kingdom. Instead it’s about a child. After making her delivery, Bera hears some nasty mermaids playing catch with a human baby. Bera rescues the baby, but the mermaids vow revenge.
Not knowing how to care for a child Bera asks an ancestor’s spirit. The ancestor isn’t much help, but suddenly she warns Bera of an evil approaching that means to do her and the child harm. It’s a witch that has fallen from grace and no longer serves in the Troll king’s court. Bera lies to her and keeps the child hidden, but this gives her the urgency to get the child back to where it belongs. Bera sets out to find a hero to help her because she doesn’t think she can do it on her own. Which, if you’re paying attention, is one of the lessons/morals that Bera will learn.
Eric Orchard’s story is paced wonderfully. Once the journey kicks off, it continues going and takes place over the course of just a few days. This keeps things going and gives a sense of urgency to Bera’s journey. Orchard’s dialogue is intentionally strange at times because we are dealing with fantasy creatures. It’s never difficult to read though and I enjoyed the way each character still and their own unique voice and yet each character fit in with the world.
Orchard’s art is also quite different from most books geared towards younger readers. These are trolls and witches after all. They’re all quite ugly or just a little off to look at and that’s okay. It fits the story perfectly and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Orchard’s designs. His fantasy creatures didn’t look like they were inspired by other people’s creations. Instead he gave them all his own twist.
Again, I can’t wait to share this book with my son one day. It was touching, full of adventure, and just heartwarming. Whether this is the one story we’ll get out of Bera, it will be memorable for me due to the amazing story and incredible artwork.
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Bera: The One-Headed Troll Creator: Eric Orchard Publisher: First Second Books Price: $17.99 Format: Hardcover; Print