The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg. ★★★★★
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is a graphic novel about the power and beauty of storytelling. The book opens with a man from the Nords (the North Pole) falling in love with a woman from the South Pole. Due to fantastical magnetic reasons, they cannot touch each other, yet they chose to spend their lives together anyway. During that time, the man tells stories of his life and how he came to arrive at the South Pole.
The setting of Early Earth is inspired by the folklore and mythology of several ancient cultures (the protagonist is clearly Inuit inspired). The world has its own mythology and creator, the Birdman and his children Kid and Kiddo. The bits about the gods were actually some of my favorite parts of the book. The Birdman in particular was hilarious, and I really liked Kiddo.
The protagonist is a storyteller, and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth takes the form of both a continuous story about his life and intermittent tales that he encounters along the way. It actually reminded me a lot of In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente in the way that it weaves stories together.
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth also riffs off of well known stories such as the Odyssey and Noah’s Arc. Yet each alteration is distinctly its own and fits seamlessly into the greater world of Early Earth.
The art style has the feel of a traditional hand made print. The black and white predominate, but a limited amount of color is brought in with flat background shades or light washes. The artwork really fits the mood of the story, ancient and otherworldly.
Reading The Encyclopedia of Early Earth was a wondrous experience. It’s a story personal and yet epic in scope, diving down into the roots of stories and storytelling. I highly recommend it.