By Dustin Cabeal
Peter & Ernesto is exactly what you want from an all-ages story in that it can be enjoyed by a lot of people coming from different moments in their life. For someone like myself, I read almost everything, but I’m also curating my child’s reading experience at the same time. Even though my son is only two and still a bit too young for this story, it’s one that I’m looking forward to sharing with him when he’s older.
My own reading experience though was a nice reminder that getting out of your routine can be difficult but rewarding. That’s the great thing about the message or moral of the story, it never hits you over the head and has varying degrees of interpretation. A younger kid person would easily glean that it’s about conquering your fears. Otherwise will see it as a story about remembering your roots. That’s how wonderful of a story Peter & Ernesto is, you can take a lot from it, but never once does it force a viewpoint upon you.
The story begins with Peter and Ernesto poking their heads out of the top of their tree. They’re cloud watching and enjoying a snack. Everything is fine and dandy until Peter sings a song about never changing anything and dying right where they are. You can see it in the artwork as it hits Ernesto, he doesn’t just want to stay there and eventually die. He decides he’s going to out into the world and look at all of the “pieces of sky.” Peter begs him not to leave and tells him how dangerous it is in the world. Ernesto plainly asks him, “How do you know, have you ever gone out there?”
Ernesto sets off on his journey, and it’s an amazing journey. He makes friends and explores. He’s the extrovert in this situation and such simple things like walking away from the tree and jumping into the water to swim, come very easily to him. Eventually, though, Peter misses him too much. He decides to go after him, but he’s not sure of which way he went, and everything is difficult for him. He’s the introvert, but the amazing thing is that Peter finds his own path, his own help and still arrives at most of the same places as Ernesto.
Graham Annable could have taken the easy way and had Peter follow along, but it was a stroke of genius to have Peter instead do everything the same, but differently. He needs a bird’s help to get across a bridge. He needs the discouragement of a grouchy Tapir to motivate himself across a river. By doing this Annable develops both characters in unique ways that help the story move forward at the same time.
The dialogue and pacing of the story are wonderful. Peter sings, and it ends up being a lovely bit of his personality and never once does Ernesto join in. It’s a Peter thing, and that felt natural. Just because they’re friends, they wouldn’t and shouldn’t do everything the same way. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen this portrayed in a story and perhaps now that I think on it, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it used and established without it being the focal point of the plot. Annable is amazing with the number of layers he’s added to this seemingly simple story.
The artwork is gorgeous as well. There’s a sense of movement to the artwork from panel to panel. The entire opening is simple and yet hugely effective for establishing the story. The designs stand out because they’re cute, full of personality and unique in that way that only Annable could be the illustrator for these designs. The linework has a thick graphite look to it which is charming and familiar. The coloring is beyond me to describe. It reminded me of chalk, oil painting and computer painting all at the same time, but then none of those fit it either. It’s distinct and unique from what I usually see in comics/graphic novels.
Peter & Ernesto is delightful. It’s full of positive energy and gives you so many ways to be inspired by this tale of two sloths. It looks as if another volume is already in the works and I for one, will be very excited to read it. In the meantime, pick up Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths for yourself, for a friend, for your child or all three. None of you will regret it.
Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths
First Second Books