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‘Erf’ Is The Garth Ennis Kids’ Book You Never Expected (And Sort Of The One You Did)

Here’s a 100% true sentence that I honestly never thought I would type: I just got a copy of the new book for small children written by Garth Ennis.

It’s called Erf, and when Ennis and illustrator Rob Steen announced their project on Kickstarter, the major reaction was surprise. Steen may be an award-winning children’s book illustrator best known for his work on Flanimals with Ricky Gervais, but Ennis’s past writing on books like Preacher, Punisher, the Boys and Crossed tends to be marked by a few more violent dismemberments than you might expect from a new book for kids. Now that I finally have my copy, though, I can tell you that it’s sweet, touching, and also kind of exactly what you’d expect from a kids’ book written by Ennis.The fact that it’s good doesn’t really come as a surprise, even though it’s a pretty big departure from the type of book Ennis is known for. After all, part of the reason that I wanted to contribute to the Kickstarter — aside from just being a fan of his to begin with — was that I love to see creators expanding their horizons and working on new and different kinds of projects. Hitman and Preacher and Punisher may be grouped pretty close together in terms of subject matter, but they’re also so good that it’s obvious that the guy writing them is probably capable of a little versatility.

Plot-wise, Erf is a sort of evolutionary fable. It’s set in the primordial era with a cast of characters taking their first steps out of the ocean and onto land, and it’s very clearly meant to be read to a child. The characters all have funny names and make funny noises and speak in sentences that almost beg you to act them out as you read.

But while all that might be different, the themes Ennis and Steen are hitting with this book are the same that you’ll find in a lot of Ennis’s past work. It’s a book about self-sacrifice in the name of helping others, about bravery versus cowardice and, in the end, about how we should always remember the people who did have the courage to make those sacrifices. Those are elements that you’ll find in almost all of his work, and as a fan, I was both shocked and absolutely delighted to see them showing up in this format.

It’s really not that far off from his other work, when you get right down to it. I mean, I honestly would not have been surprised to see something called “The Colossux” show up to make trouble for Tommy Monaghan and Natt the Hat.

If you missed out on getting your copy through the Kickstarter, I wouldn’t worry too much: Ennis and Steen topped their goal, so hopefully an increased print run will mean that they’re not too difficult to track down — and if you’re a fan of either’s work, or just want a sad, sweet, somewhat scary story to read to your kids, it’s worth it.

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