Elma: A Bear’s Life, Vol. 1

Title: Elma: A Bear’s Life (Volume 1)
Author: Ingrid Chabbert
Illustrator: Lea Maze
Published: July 2019
Publisher: Europe Comics
Readership: Kids
Genre: Graphic Novel
Rating: ★★★.5

I received a copy of Elma: A Bear’s Life Vol. 1 from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Elma is a joyful, free-spirited child who is being raised by a bear she thinks of as her father. But Papa Bear is hiding a secret, and the close-knit duo must make a long and perilous journey to begin a mysterious new life beyond the forest. Adventure and danger are in store as they discover the linked secrets of Elma’s past and future.

Despite it being unwise to judge a book by it’s cover, I have to admit that I absolutely requested Elma: A Bear’s Life  based on it’s cover – which is so beautifully illustrated I just couldn’t help myself. I didn’t even realise it was a graphic novel-style book until I started reading it (and that just made it all the better).

Elma: A Bear’s Life, Volume 1, is the story of a vivacious young girl called Elma, who’s been raised by a bear she calls Papa Bear. Straight away, the story gave my Goldilocks and The Jungle Book feelings, but it is its’ own story, too. Elma and Papa Bear have been living together her whole life until Papa Bear breaks the news to her that they must travel a long way from their home in the forest. Elma doesn’t understand why and Papa Bear doesn’t elaborate and the begin their journey, facing dangers and testing their relationship.

This first volume is not overly complex, and rather than focusing on a significant story reveal to propel the story forward, we spend a lot of time understanding the deeply loving relationship these two characters have for one another. Papa Bear cares deeply for this human child who considers herself half-bear. Elma is a wild little thing (and spends the entire book naked or half-naked while running around the forest playing games and getting into mischief).

As a reader, we understand that Papa Bear is taking Elma somewhere for some purpose, but it’s not made quite clear what that is – did he make a deal with someone to raise her? Is he returning her to humans? It’s hard to say at this point.

The artwork is absolutely stunning, with a strong orange/blue colour palette. There ‘s a lovely whimsical nature to them. I love the cover artwork so much I’d frame it and put it on my wall, so you know I had a great time just exploring the visual elements to this story while reading.

The book does leave off on a cliff-hanger, so if those are not your ideal story endings, keep that in mind. Otherwise, this was a delightfully charming read and I’ll be keeping an eye out for Volume 2.

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