Things in the Basement by Ben Hatke is the fantastical adventure of young mop-headed Milo who is sent looking for his baby sister’s missing sock in the basement of their new home. Not just any sock, this “special sock” was made by her Tia Maria “with her special yarn.” The pressure is on as Milo reluctantly heads into the strange, gloomy basement to check the laundry.
What ensues is a series of Milo stumbling into and across one breadcrumb to the next, each taking him deeper and deeper into a secret world under his house. For kids who are terrified of basements, so is Milo! He is resistant time and again to continue his pursuit of the missing sock, but as he meets various underground dwellers and becomes entangled in their plight to survive, his inner hero eventually shines through.
Hatke’s use of frameless borders and often organically shaped panels lends to the eerie feeling of the story along with a rich palette of shades to reflect the gloomy atmosphere. Brighter colors emerge as the action ramps up with some pages seeming to burst with energy and excitement. Dialogue is minimal throughout, with some characters communicating in easily interpreted symbols.
Milo’s lack of confidence throughout the story is frustrating at times, but this also makes him a wonderful role model for kids who may fear basements as well as for kids who are fascinated by them. In the end, Milo’s victory saves his newly forged underground friendships and allows him to conquer his own internal struggle, making him the ultimate hero.
Things in the Basement by Ben Hatke. First Second :01, August 2023.
Reviewer bio: NewPages.com Editor Denise Hill reviews books based on personal interest.