I pre-ordered this after enjoying Dungeon Critters so much and I’m glad I did, as The Bawk-Ness Monster was also just up my alley. This book follows Penny and her friends Luc and K on their quest to find the Bawk-Ness Monster, Bessie, before Penny has to move away. She remembers the cryptid saving her when she fell in the lake previously and nearly drowned, and now she wants to find it and thank it before she has to leave. She manages to convince her overprotective mother to take the three of them camping at the lake where Bessie lives, and they get swept up into an adventure focused on saving the cryptids from an evil collector.
This book had a lot of elements that appealed to me and I was happy to zip through it once it popped up in my mailbox. The art and writing are charming and expressive, as expected from Goetter and Riess. I always appreciate the look into their process in the back of the book and how they split the elements that go into it, which I think makes for a unified product that’s reflective of both of their strengths. I love Sara Goetter’s character art a lot, and Riess’s backgrounds and colors really add so much to it. I also appreciated the lessons the book is getting across about the importance of friendship and standing up for each other, wildlife conservation, and that the mother has to overcome her own overprotective nature and fear for Penny. It’s always striking in a kid’s book when the parent also has to learn to start relaxing and letting the child do things outside their comfort zone, and it makes me hopeful for the continued spread of emotional intelligence in our society. And the fact that the book is dedicated to LGBTQ+ kids and the adults who stand up for them just warmed my heart. The bonus comic in the back where we see Luc’s friends being supportive about the name change made me so happy. I love representation! I did like Dungeon Critters better overall just due to the density of the world and the detail of the art, but this was a great book and one I’d fully recommend. I can completely understand why they can’t devote that much work to every book, especially given how terrible the work load and pay are for comics, and this book was extremely detailed as well. Definitely recommended!
Warnings for: child kidnap, bullying, near drowning, cryptid kidnap and mistreatment, physical threats/light violence (nothing too graphic)