I knew nothing about the book when I ordered it, but I was unable to resist the prospect of a wordless graphic novel about a winged puppy. I was unfamiliar with Tanaka’s work as well. Blind purchases like this can go horribly awry, but this one was completely rewarding.
Wings begins with an elderly farmer riding his bike out to his fields. He’s shocked to find a winged puppy in a box by the side of the road but brings him home. As the puppy grows, Tanaka gently observes the delights and difficulties the new member of the family brings, illustrating the joys of pet ownership through this most unusual canine.
Tanaka’s black-and-white pencil illustrations are utterly delightful, rich and detail and warmth. He mixes the everyday and the amazing in seamless, charming ways. Whether watching the family at rest and seeing the dog soar out over the sea, every page is effective in its own way, and the cumulative effect is dazzling.
Fans of Andy Runton’s Owly (Top Shelf) will feel right at home here. Wings is funny and moving and creates an invitingly familiar world with its own twists. It’s packaged like a children’s book and feels like a fable with its gentle take on love, loyalty, and acceptance. It’s one of the most pleasant surprises of the year so far.