Nightlights is a series of children’s comic books by Lorena Alvarez that, as of this writing, consists of two books: Nightlights and Hicotea. The series follows Sandy, an imaginative and artistic girl, who has fantastical adventures involving magical creatures, some friendly and others malevolent. It’s an intriguing series, with narratives that have more going on under the surface then you might expect from a series geared towards children.
In the first book, Sandy is approached by a strange girl who compliments her on her drawings, much to Sandy’s delight, who thinks that she’s made a new friend. That night, Sandy dreams of a creepy, goblin-like creature that asks her to draw for her. Sandy initially complies, but the thing she ends up making isn’t like the whimsical creations she’s drawn up until then, it’s something monstrous. The goblin demands that Sandy draw more things for her and, when Sandy refuses, she insists that Sandy will change her mind and that Sandy needs her now to tell her how brilliant she is. In many respects this plays out like your typical ghost story, but it’s also presenting a parable on artistic integrity. If Sandy were to give in to the goblin and create art that is only meant to be consumed by others, she might receive praise and love from those people, but she would no longer be creating her art. By rejecting this temptation, Sandy ultimately remains true to herself.
The second book, Hicotea, has a more dream-like structure and is a bit more esoteric in its messaging. Sandy goes on a field trip to the wetlands with her class, where she finds a turtle shell that transports her to a museum when she peers inside. There she meets the aptly named turtle, Hicotea (Hicotea means turtle in Spanish). Hicotea is a scholar who had been studying the wetlands, but recently a monster has appeared there and she has been too afraid to return. Sandy offers to go to the marsh and collect information for her, but, when she arrives, she finds that the monster has been consuming everything and that the wetlands has been transformed into a wasteland. At first, I thought this book was telling an environmental story, with the monster representing human carelessness towards preserving nature, but there is a bit more going on here. “Your curiosity,” the monster tells Sandy, “will only make you smaller and smaller… Soon you’ll realize your insignificance and that you’ll never be able to understand the universe.” I feel that the monster is actually meant to represent ignorance, or the desire to remain ignorant, rather than ask questions and persevere in the pursuit of answers when they aren’t immediately forthcoming. This is a great story about the pursuit of knowledge and it’s wonderful to see a complex idea like this presented to children in a way that’s fun and entertaining, but still challenges them to think.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the Nightlights series is its stunning artwork. These comics are full of lavishly detailed full-page spreads with parades of adorable creatures and vibrant colours that seem to pop off the page. When the tone of the story turns more frightening, the imagery in turn becomes more bizarre and sinister. The books are a visual treat from cover to cover and I will sometimes flip through the pages to just admire how gorgeous everything looks. I would recommend checking out this series for the art alone.
Nightlights is a clever and beautiful series that is at times thoughtful, at times scary and ultimately delightful from start to finish. I think most kids will love Sandy’s adventures and get a thrill out of the spooky parts, though there is a scene in Hicotea, that shows a dissected frog, that might be upsetting to young children. Overall, this was a very enjoyable read and I highly recommend the series to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy story.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
For more information on the Nightlights series, check out Nobrow’s website: https://nobrow.net/shop/?s=nightlights
What did you think of this series? Be sure to let me know in the comments.
Also, be sure to check out some of my other kids’ comics reviews: