Deep within the wild, windswept woods, a man is walking. Bearded and bedraggled, his layered clothing ragged and torn in places, all indicative of a long and arduous journey. Still, the man’s pace is steadfast, his steps sure. He is walking towards a certain light.
Back in the house, the librarian searches for a book.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been this far into the house before,” says Calcifer. It is perched on a bony shoulder. They have both traveled a long way.
“The house is as old and vast as tales are in the history of the world and the reckoning of time.”
“The house is very large, yes.”
Osseous pulls out a thin volume from a shelf, making a satisfied noise. The book looks somewhat new, an odd thing given the other offerings of the house, which include tomes that may or may not be older than the known universe. It boasts a colorful cover that almost seems to blaze in the dim surroundings. It features two figures — a man and a woman — lying comfortably in a field.
“What’s that one about, then?” asks Calcifer.
“Love and friendship, mostly,” says Osseous, grabbing the lamp on the table and walking once more out of the room. “About missed moments and seized opportunities. The ever-changing seasons of life. About endings and beginnings.”
“Doesn’t sound all that gloom and doom, to be honest,” says Calcifer, taking flight once more.
“No, it’s decidedly not. But it’s never a bad thing to have a little light against the approaching darkness.”
Lamp held up, the two figures make their way back through the shadows.
At the far end of the house, there is a knock at the door.
The librarian hands the man a cup of something warm. The man has cleaned up somewhat, but still looks tired and threadbare. “Thank you, Oz,” the man says. He nods his head towards the crow resting on its usual spot at the top of the bookcase. “So he’s new.”
“To you, maybe,” mutters the crow.
“What’s your name?”
“Calcifer,” corrects Osseous.
“Can I call you Cal?”
The man shrugs. An awkward silence ensues.
“Well, I’ve never been one for small talk,” says the man, standing up. “Lead the way, Oz,” he says, gesturing at the librarian. “I want to see Josie and Deja.”
What can I say about this book that I haven’t already said before? This is my fourth year reading Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks, and I love it just as much as I did when I first picked it up back in 2019 — if not more so. ⠀
I decided to take my time with it on this occasion, the better to appreciate the art of illustrator Faith Erin Hicks and colorist Sarah Stern. They each put so much care and effort into depicting this, as Rowell and Hicks describe it, fictional “Disneyland of pumpkin patches,” that it’s the integral part of the story’s charm. The tacky signage. The whimsical food stands. The characters running around the background who, instead of being vaguely depicted stand-ins, as is the norm in comics, are drawn to look like actual, authentic people. It all helps to make this world feel lived-in and real. Like a place with stories that continue long after the final pages of this book.⠀
Which of course leads me, inevitably, to once again voice my deep and abiding desire for the Christmas sequel hinted at the end of this graphic novel to become an actual, proper thing. I need it. You need it. The world certainly needs it. Give us more Deja and Josie.