You know you wanted to read this book as soon as you saw the title. Who wouldn’t want to read about an evil beard?
The main character, Dave, lives on an island called Here, where beards are not tolerated. Everything on Here needs to be neat, orderly, and changeless. Then, one day, Dave grows a giant beard. He doesn’t mean to grow it. It just happens. The beard grows so fast that it starts taking over the island. The residents of Here have to figure out what to do about it.
The art in this graphic novel is done in gray pencil drawings. The drawings aren’t always super-detailed, but they do a great job of capturing the bland sameness of Here. They get the point across.
The plot and characters have the humor and quirkiness you’d expect, but the story is surprisingly deep. Since I’d seen this book described as a “modern-day fable,” I knew the theme would go deeper than evil beards, but I didn’t expect it to resonate with me so much. I had planned on reading a few pages of this book before bed, but I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. It was too weirdly important for me to put down. I needed to finish it.
The story is about xenophobia, distrust of the “other,” and fear of change. The novel starts with Dave, but as the plot progresses, the residents of Here seem to forget that Dave exists. They only see his problematic beard. They don’t take the time to understand that Dave is embarrassed by his beard and just wants to fit in on the island. The islanders have a lot of “What to do about the beard” discussions, but Dave isn’t invited to the conversations. They forget that Dave is a human and not just a problem. Even though the plot of The Gigantic Beard that was Evil is silly, there are a lot of parallels between it and the real world. I guess that’s what makes a good fable, right?
“The job of the skin is to keep things in” – The Gigantic Beard that was Evil
My only criticism of the book is that the layout is choppy. Sometimes, one sentence is chopped up and scattered over a whole page of panels. For me, this layout disrupts the flow of the story because I kept getting distracted by the pictures while hunting for the next part of a sentence. The writing does have a nice, poetic rhythm to it, once you locate all the words and read them together.
If you’re ever in the mood for a bizarre fable about out-of-control facial hair, check this one out.