I Stood By A Lake: Volume 1, written by Jolimichel Robinson, illustrated by Ron Cunningham
[Note: This book was sent to me free of charge by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own. A copy of the book may be found here.]
There are times where writers engage in world building, and this book definitely has that feeling. Who is Kraft and why does he have a store next to a lake? These are sensible questions to ask when one reads this collection of graphic short stories. Having previously read two volumes of the author’s material in the Mystery Baby series, this book presents a change of pace that at first would appear to be unrelated to the other two books, until the last story makes it clear that Kraft–no mean artisan given the stories–helps supply goods to a store in Jolly Town, which probably provides him with enough income to keep his own store going in its remote and seemingly unfortunate location. Although the stories included are definitely lighthearted and not even as series as the two generally lighthearted novels that I read before taking this one on, they do hint in at least two ways that Kraft has more going on than meets the eye–namely in the title of the book as a volume 1 and his connection to businesses in Jolly Town.
This volume contains three stories. Intriguingly enough, before the stories, the book contains a somewhat unexpected disclaimer about any person or place in this book being based on anything real. The first story of the book is called “Twinkling Stars,” and it shows Kraft being kind to two girls by making a couple of ice skates that allow them to avoid the freezing lake while changing color thanks to the stars’ reflection. The second story, “The Kayaks,” shows Kraft making kayaks for two brothers and finding reasons to give both of them the boats he has made. In the third story, “The Crystal Bracelets,” shows Kraft making bracelets for two young ladies and then using them to market the bracelets so that he can make more of them to sell in Jolly Town. Here an act of kindness serves as marketing expenses, and one wonders just how expensive these bracelets are, as Kraft makes an alarmingly large amount of giveaways while having a shop location that does not appear ideal for business. What is his business model exactly?
As is the case with the two other books by the author I have read so far, this book prompts some questions as there appears to be something far beyond the message itself. It is odd that all of the customers the shopkeeper Kraft deals with are young people. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the novel is aimed at children, and the author wants to encourage children not to be terrified of all friendly adults–and to be sure Kraft appears genuinely friendly without any sinister dark motives–but it would have been good to see Kraft’s dealings with a wider variety of people in terms of age to demonstrate that Kraft’s kindness to children is not targeted but is part of a more general kindness. Likewise, this book has back story potential in that one wonders how it was that Kraft came to have the store where he had it. With skills like his, he could obviously make a lot of money but prefers to have a store in the woods where he gives away a lot of products that he makes with his own hands to children. Obviously there are reasons he prefers to live and work in a remote area, and those reasons may be explored in future volumes.