Wake Up, Spring

Wake Up, Spring (Hotel Strange #1)

Florian & Katherine Ferrier

Graphic Universe, Lerner Publishing

Pbk, 9781467785846, AUD $16.95

Translated by Carol Burrell

French edition: Hôtel Étrange l'hiver au printemps Sarbacane, 2010

I met the creators of Hotel Strange, Florian and Katherine Ferrier, in 2011 Angoulême, south-west of France. The couple work and live in Angoulême, which just happens to be home Europe’s biggest comics and graphic novel festival. At that time Hôtel Étrange, issued by independent publisher Sarbacane, was provoking considerable interest. Four more books have since appeared, while Katherine and Florian have become regulars at festivals all across France.

All is calm, all is quiet.

So it is an absolute delight to see Hotel Strange now crossover into English. Katherine’s vivid and dynamic artwork and design match Florian’s witty, energetic stories to create a fresh, welcoming and delightful world of adventure. The hotel setting works rather like the Faraway Tree or the Treehouse books of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton: it’s a venue to house all manner of curious guests and remarkable stories.

Unexpected guests.

In the first of the series all at Hotel Strange are deeply, deeply asleep when loud knocking startles them awake. Incredibly, they have slept past March 21 – Mr Spring has mysteriously failed to appear. What has happened to him? In search of Mr Spring they must go!

Marietta and Kiki prepare to search for Mr Spring.

The stars of Hotel Strange are the hotel’s keeper Marietta – an enterprising and capable child – and her friend Kiki, an excitable sprite figure whose drôle humour keeps the saccharine at bay. There’s also the bookish Mr Leclair, ghostly Mr Snarf and the practical-minded elf child Celestin to enrich the scene. As the books are designed for young readers the strange and gothic touches are lightly applied.

Kiki hates missing a meal.

Fending off creatures such as Grouchies, Mumblers and a Smog while searching for Mr Spring, there is still time for wild tobogganing, snowball fights, friendship and feasts.

Kiki gets a lesson in skiing.

Here is a fresh comic book series with classic and traditional aspects woven in. Strange Hotel is crowded with quirky characters, quick wit and delightful adventures. Perhaps it’s the wintry setting of Wake Up Spring that suggests the world of Moomintroll, but I can’t quite put my finger on why this graphic novel series also seems to retain a picture book quality. In any case, this is an added layer of pleasure for the reader.

This joy and energy makes Wake Up, Spring a welcome addition to any bookshelf where adventure, play, quirky characters and a sense of discovery have a home. There is even a recipe for sponge cake at the end.

About the illustrator

Katherine Ferrier holds a diploma in bande dessinée for the School of Beaux-Arts at Angoulême. Her work has appeared in magazines for children and teenagers and for major publishing houses including Milan, Fleurus and Bayard. Parallel with producing artwork for publications, Katherine worked for six years as a stylist/designer for the popular children’s clothing brand Du pareil au meme.

Katherine Ferrier at work on book 2