“There are hidden corners on this mountain that few can find–certainly not those who run away every time the birds migrate. Only those who are guided by the mountain. I can tell you’re not from around here, but you’re no ordinary girl–you have the mountain inside you”–Granny, Aster and the Accidental Magic, p. 18.
|Creator(s)||Thom Pico (author) Karensac (illustrator)|
|Publisher||Random House Graphic|
|Environmental Themes and Issues||Hostile Environment, Habitat Destruction, Animals in Danger, Climate Change, Anthropomorphism|
|Protagonist’s Identity||Aster: White girl|
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency||Level 3: Moderate, Plot-Driven Environmental Agency|
|Target Audience||Middle Grade (8 to 12 years)|
|Settings||Fantasy setting in an unnamed mountain region|
Thom Pico and Karensac’s Aster and the Accidental Magic includes two stories, and both of these narratives contain strong environmental themes. The opening story, “Aster Makes Some Poorly Thought-Through Wishes,” begins as child protagonist Aster and her family move from the city to their new home in the mountains days before “the great migration,” which occurs once every fifteen years. During this cyclical event, an ancient, unnamed species of large bird migrates across the land, violently destroying humans and homes. Aster’s ornithologist mother, Professor Rose, attributes the birds’ violent behavior to human actions, stating, “Our peaceful coexistence ended when we built a dam in the mountains. It turned out that the dam flooded a valley that was crucial to the birds. It was their special sanctuary where they built their nests… They’re dying out, honey, and they’re desperate to survive” (Pico 11). Professor Rose has spearheaded the development of a Robo-Bird prototype intended to lead the migrating birds away from human villages, protecting both species.
As Aster’s parents prepare for the great migration, Aster explores the mountains surrounding her home. She encounters Granny, an old woman who guards the mountains with her pack of wooly dogs, and Granny gifts Aster a young dog that the girl names Buzz. The next day, Aster and Buzz encounter the Trickster Rapscallion, a frog-like creature who offers to grant Aster three wishes. These wishes predictably go wrong, with Aster losing the ability to speak in anything other than barks after she wishes that she could speak to Buzz and later replacing her own parents with talking monsters. However, Buzz and Aster work together to trick Rapscallion into reversing the wishes. The narrative concludes with Aster’s mother successfully leading the birds away with the Robo-Bird.
In the second narrative, “Aster Gets a Magical Fox Exceedingly Upset,” Aster discovers that Granny is actually the Queen of Summer, a mythical being who rules one of the four seasons. The King of Autumn, a fox, arrives to claim the Crown of Seasons, but the seasonal guardians discover that Aster’s actions in the previous story have disrupted the transition of power. Now, Aster and Granny both share the power of the Queen of Summer, preventing the King of Autumn from claiming the Crown. Additionally, the seasonal disruption has distorted time around the mountain village, creating “time bubbles” where time moves at different rates than in the outside world. The fox and his Chestnut Knights kidnap Aster’s father in a scheme to reclaim her power and restore the proper order of the seasons, but Aster uses her newfound magic to defeat the fox. She cedes her power back to Granny, and the woman passes the Crown of Seasons to the King of Winter, triggering an early season change. By emphasizing the way that human actions disrupt natural cycle and the change of seasons, this comic serves as a whimsical metaphor about climate change. Together, both narratives provide an overall positive portrayal of nature as magical and whimsical, despite the dangers posed by the birds and by the fox.
In 2021, the comic was followed by a sequel, Aster and the Mixed-Up Magic.
Herviou, Nicole. “Battling cynicism with talking dogs: A Q&A with the duo behind ‘Aster and the Accidental Magic.'” AIPT Comics, 2 March 2020, https://aiptcomics.com/2020/03/02/aster-and-the-accidental-magic-interview/.