“Take a look at this little family. Where will they go?” — News Reporter, Kodi, p. 134.
|Creator(s)||Jared Cullum (author and illustrator)|
|Publisher||Top Shelf Productions|
|Genre||Fantasy, Animal Comic|
|Environmental Themes and Issues||Habitat Destruction, Animals in Danger, Anthropomorphism|
|Protagonist’s Identity||Katya: White girl|
The book also features a Black disabled character, Joshua, who uses a crutch to walk
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency||Level 3: Moderate, Plot-Driven Environmental Agency|
|Target Audience||Middle Grade (8 to 12 years)|
|Settings||Alaska and Seattle|
In Jared Cullum’s graphic novel Kodi, child protagonist Katya spends every summer at the family cabin in Alaska with her grandmother Meema. There, the lonely girl spends her time reading comic books alone, avoiding the local children who bully her for her large ears. After venturing out to the corner store one day, Katya gets caught in a thunderstorm. As she races home, she slips off a log and tumbles to the ground next to a grizzly bear who has been trapped under a fallen tree. Katya and Meema rescue the bear with a rope and take it home to nurse it back to health. Katya befriends the bear and names it Kodi. The pair play in the woods together, with Kodi showing Katya how to fish and even letting her ride on his back. However, their budding relationship gets cut short when the girl and Meema have to return home to Seattle to see a dying family member. Katya gives Kodi a drawing of the two of them, telling him that she will be in Seattle under the next summer. Determined to find her, Kodi boards a ship to the city, where he befriends Joshua, a disabled sailor who is struggling to pay his rent after a shipwreck leaves his arm and leg permanently injured. Kodi helps Joshua earn money by fishing while they search for Katya. Eventually, the girl discovers Kodi at the docks, just as he has boarded another ship back to Alaska. Katya and Joshua wreck their boat while trying to catch up to Kodi, but the bear rescues them from the water. The comic concludes with Kodi, Katya, Joshua, and Meema sailing on Joshua’s boat.
As this summary suggests, creator Jared Cullum heavily anthropomorphizes Kodi. While the bear never speaks, it does seem to understand human language and has the ability to sneak onto a ship to travel to Seattle. Additionally, while Cullum portrays Kodi engaging in natural bear behaviors, such as hunting for fish, the bear also displays many unnatural behaviors, such as cuddling with the young girl and, later in the comic, even wearing a striped T-shirt that Joshua has given him. As a result, despite the often-realistic illustrations, the comic provides middle-grade readers with an unrealistic portrayal of bears, though children in this age group will likely recognize that Cullum’s depiction of Kodi is an unrealistic fantasy. Finally, while a news reporter does briefly mention that construction at the docks threatens local wildlife, she quickly gets distracted when she spots Kodi and the comic does not provide any additional information about this environmental issue.
James. David. “New graphic novel ‘Kodi’ is great for young readers, but also a sweet tale for adults.” Anchorage Daily News, 17 April 2021, https://www.adn.com/arts/books/2021/04/17/new-graphic-novel-kodi-is-great-for-young-readers-but-also-a-sweet-tale-for-adults/.