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Review: ‘The Kurdles’

kurdlesThe Kurdles
By Robert Goodin
Fantagraphics Books; $25

The title characters of Robert Goodin’s all-ages graphic novel are a motley assortment of characters who live in a place called Kurdleton, somewhere in the woods. They consist of Phineas, a scarecrow-like doll; Hank, an anthropomorphic unicorn in a T-shirt and jeans; Pentapus, a five-legged cephalopod-sort in a fisherman’s cap; and Dog, Pentapus’ dog.

Our point-of-view character is Sally Bear, a blank-faced teddy bear who is tossed out the window of a speeding car by her bratty little owner in the midst of a temper tantrum. After a harrowing night in the woods that could probably freak out anyone who invests–or has invested–their stuffed animals with sentience, Sally is found by The Kurdles.

They too are suffering from a crisis, albeit a much weirder one than Sally: Their house has started growing a coat of long pink hair, the first (and least creepy) symptom of a bizarre house disease that could quickly lead to Hank and company being homeless.

Sally throws in with the others to help them solve their problem and is eventually adopted by them–who wants to journey back to the home of an owner who threw her out of a moving car, after all?

Goodin’s book is a big one; while only 64 pages long, it’s 8.75-by-12 inches, giving his full-color art plenty of room to breathe, and making for a particularly immersive reading experience, particularly for little readers, for whom a big book naturally looks bigger still.

Not that it’s only for little readers, of course. While The Kurdles is reminiscent of A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood cast of living stuffed animals, their adventure has a sense of high weirdness that leans harder in the direction of Tony Millionaire’s Billy Hazelnuts books (thought not quite as strange as all that), and the characters have sharper, more modern and realistic dialogue exchanges.

While evocative of other children’s literature, it’s not quite like anything else, at least not so much as to feel at all derivative. Goodin’s art is highly detailed, in sharp contrast to the fairly simple designs of his cast, and his mostly expression-less Sally Bear therefore makes a perfect deadpan actress.

Interestingly, she “comes to life” and has a highly imaginative adventure only once she’s far away from any children and all on her own. Sally Bear’s life is not dependent on a little girl’s imagination but a sort of free-floating imagination that human beings can only interfere with, rather than generate.

It’s something of a reversal of the expected relationship of children and their toys, but perhaps a more satisfying one, as it lends a sort of immortality to our playthings, removing them from the short lifespan that a kid growing up imposes upon them.

If you want to over-think it, I suppose.

If not, The Kurdles is still a fun, funny, friendly adventure of a strange assortment of characters dealing with a stranger-still problem.

J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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