Although “Julia’s House For Lost Creatures” by Ben Hatke is adorable and full of charm, it definitely feels more like an illustrated children’s book than a comic. As a children’s book it’s lovely, but as a comic it’s a bit of a let down.
The simple concept — a girl that settles by the sea and is lonely, so opens her home to creatures who need a home — has a lot of potential, but isn’t explored very fully, perhaps deliberately to keep the book short and sweet. Julia makes some rules when her guests overrun her home, and all the creatures quickly get along. But that quick resolution feels like a lot of opportunity for mishaps and hilarity were brushed aside in order to get to the happily ever after. There’s not much to the sparse writing — it’s cute and effective overall but not particularly insightful and the cuteness doesn’t really translate to funny either.
The strength of the book is really in Hatke’s visuals, which are a total delight. Julia is adorable and the creatures she houses from mermaids and ghosts to giant bridge trolls and patchwork kitties show fantastic creativity. The book is eminently engaging on a visual front and Hatke does an excellent job of celebrating the small details like a clever mechanical repairman Julia eventually brings in to keep her house in working order. Though the few legitimately sequential pages are effective they’re not really necessary and except for Hatke’s experience with great kids comics, it’s unclear why this would be positioned as anything but an illustrated children’s book.
While the book is inarguably charming, it does not find that all-ages sweet spot where a book is appropriate for kids, but also enjoyable for adults. There’s nothing wrong with a book geared solely to children, but it’s worth noting that this is really only for kids, there are no layers to be mined or engaging insights for older readers.
As a comic, “Julia’s House For Lost Creatures” probably only rates about average. It’s very simple and doesn’t make a lot of use of sequential art on balance. As a children’s book, it’s a delightful charmer for any young child, but not necessarily one with enough layers to grow with them for long.