Review by Frances Castle
Everything is Teeth is the first graphic novel by Evie Wyld and Joe Sumner. Wyld has previously written two highly acclaimed novels ‘After the Fire’,(2009) and ‘A Still Small Voice and All the Birds, Singing’.(2013)
Wyld was brought up in South London, but spent holidays and Christmases at her uncle’s farm in coastal Australia. For most London children, sharks are mythical creatures. Our coastal waters, though cold and rough, hold nothing more dangerous than jelly fish stings and uncomfortable pebble beaches. Jaws happened thousands of miles away, after all. With frequent trips to Australia though, sharks are a little closer to home for the young Evie.
In Australia there are tales of local shark encounters: a fishing trip for bull sharks, a dead shark washed up on the beach, and on the shelf there is Rodney Foxes book, Shark Attack which documents in striking detail the injuries he sustained when escaping from a shark, great teeth marks in his wet suit and horse hair stitches up his back.
Joe Sumner’s black and white illustrations are almost crude in their simplicity: small eyed and big nosed, the characters seem virtually expressionless. When drawing sharks though, he changes to highly detailed graphic images that stand out nightmarishly against the flat pen and ink. Red blood dribbles down the page, and sharks’ teeth and eyes are drawn in intimate detail. A favourite is a double page spread of Evie walking home from school in black and white placidness: floating unseen is an almost photographic shark, lurking, ghost-like, behind her.
With images like this, it’s hard not to see Evie’s fear of Sharks as a metaphor for the unknown – the troubles of the adult world she is yet to enter. Her brother is bullied at school, but apart from her English father’s apparent awkwardness with the Australian lifestyle, there seems to be no real threat in an otherwise happy childhood.
Four pages of beautiful slow-motion images move Evie from child to adult. A shark swims from black and white drawing to detailed photo-real rendering – all lit up in empty dark water, flicking its tail as it glides across the book. Another turn of the page and we see him swimming into the head of a now grown up Evie.
At the end of the book she sits at the bed side of a dying Rodney Fox, having come to the conclusion that Rodney’s shark wasn’t trying to murder him, but was just after the fish he had tied to his weight belt. Understanding her fears is a way of taming them.
Everything is Teeth is a 128 page hardback, published by Jonathan Cape and out now. We’ll be offering up a few copies as competition prizes on this week’s newsletter. If you aren’t already on the mailing list now’s the time to do it. Simply put your email address in the box at the top right of this page.