I am probably one of the few persons left on Earth who do not appreciate The Little Prince. I feel that its message is too zen, too cryptic at some points. Thankfully there's Craig Thompson's beautiful graphic novel, Good-bye, Chunky Rice, whose message is just as profound as Saint-Exupery's beloved work.
Good-bye, Chunky Rice is indeed a fable, a tale about the friendship between a turtle named Chunky Rice and a mouse deer named Dandel. Chunky Rice decides to leave Dandel behind to search for something missing in his life and to find the place where he truly belongs.
Chunky Rice then boards a ship in the company of several eccentric characters: the oily captain named Charles, an animal-loving man named Solomon, and Siamese twin sisters named Livonia and Ruth. Through these characters, Thompson seamlessly weaves subplots into Chunky Rice's adventure.
But Good-bye, Chunky Rice is still about, well, Chunky Rice. Maybe he was wrong to leave Dandel behind, for he was always happy in her company. Dandel constantly pines for her friend, always throwing at the sea bottles with messages intended for her lost friend.
Several readers would definitely glean different meanings in Thompson's exquisitely drawn graphic novel. For me, that message is one of friendship: how it is important to recognize the importance of people who are always with us, never taking their existence for granted. Chunky Rice and Dandel complete one another. When one left the other, there was a natural tendency to wish the other back.
I'm not sure Good-bye, Chunky Rice would be enjoyed by kids though. While the style of the illustrations do seem to be intended for young readers, some of the panels depict sensitive content.
Thompson is more famous for Blankets and, recently, for Habibi. Compared to these two, Good-bye, Chunky Rice is minute. (It runs for just over 100 pages, as compared with the more than 600 pages each comprising Blankets and Habibi.) However, its themes of friendship and loss are more than enough to give it weight.
Read this book if:
- You'll read anything by Craig Thompson.
- You love fables.
- You find turtles and deer mice cute.