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Some friends have a place on Lake Huron. Most years, their personal beach is sizeable. They invited us there July 1, 2020, requiring we observe appropriate social distance.

Among other things, I read a graphic novel recommended by an old e2 friend.

Ryan Andrews wrote and drew This Was Our Pact (2019) with a younger audience in mind, but it has broader appeal. A group of 1990s kids take off on their bicycles, pursued by a nerdy classmate. Every year, at harvest equinox, their town sends floating paper lanterns down the river. These boys follow them on their bikes, but only to the outward limits where they're allowed to wander. This year, they plan to follow the lanterns to the end, to see where they go.

One by one, the boys drop out, leaving only Ben and his nerdy, early childhood friend, Nathaniel.

What starts as a reflective look at childhood soars into unfettered imagination once the pair crosses Toad Canyon Bridge, their parent-designated boundary. Once beyond the threshold, their pursuit of the lanterns involves them with a talking bear, the mysterious Madam Majestic, a strange community in the air, giant animals, and a mythic quest into the sort of places you find when you pass through the looking glass or get carried away by a tornado. The writing nevertheless grounds the fantastic details. Characterization remains psychologically plausible, and the boys' interests in science and astronomy actually help them navigate the dream-world.

Andrews uses limited colours effectively (lots of blues), and tells a passably entertaining tale. If you or a younger reader you know wants to read a whimsical fantasy that begins with kids on bikes, you should consider This Was Our Pact.

Hopefully, kids will continue to head out on bikes, explore twilit spaces, and dream.

297 words

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