Hicotea: A Nightlights Story
The nuns have taken Sandy and her fellow pupils out to a local wetlands on a nature trip, but the girls are all in a combative mood and all manner of arguments break out.
In a temper, Sandy stomps off and, without thinking, kicks a turtle shell. Immediately realising what she’s done, she picks up the shell and looks inside, but is surprised to find that she journeys inside it to a room full of pictures and a cardigan-wearing turtle called Hicotea.
Hicotea tells Sandy that she has been collecting as many drawings and other images from the world outside as she can, but now, something is keeping her from going out into the wetland; something wants it for itself. Sandy sets out on an adventure to find out, and in so doing, finds a strange, colourful world which is threatened by a beaked shadow. Can she save the wetlands for Hicotea and the rest of the creatures, or will it be lost forever?
Whether you’ve read and marvelled at Lorena Alvarez’s work before or are new to the Nightlights series, Hicotea (the second book) is a stunning place to start. It can definitely be read on its own, but after reading it you’ll definitely be seeking out more of Alvarez’s gloriously hallucinogenic, part-graphic novel, part-picture book artwork. All this is coupled with a smart girl protagonist and underlying themes of environmentalism and conservation.