Aquicorn Cove

Illustrated by K. O’Neill

“I know our village is small, and we can only do small things to help the sea. But I still think we should do them. Even if other people are harming the reef, it doesn’t make it okay for us to as well.”

Aquicorn Cove is a fantasy graphic novel that explores the connections between humans and marine ecosystems. The story centers on Lana, a young girl struggling to cope with her grief after her mother perished at sea during a storm. Lana and her father moved away from their coastal village after this tragedy, but they visit to help the community clean up after another devastating storm. While exploring the beach, Lana discovers an injured baby “Aquicorn,” a mythical seahorse-like animal. She rescues the Aquicorn to nurse it back to health, but she soon finds that the baby is only one of many marine creatures in danger. Aure, the humanoid guardian of the Aquicorns, warns Lana’s Aunt Mae that the village’s harmful fishing practices have nearly wiped out local fish populations. Additionally, the warming of the ocean due to climate change has bleached the nearby coral reef, which the Aquicorns and other marine creatures rely on for food and shelter.

This graphic novel can serve as a springboard for discussions about climate change, commercial fishing, pollution, slow violence, and sustainability. Aure highlights the slow violence that human actions inflict on marine creatures. She tells Aunt Mae, “The sea is getting warmer and dirtier, and the coral is dying…. The Aquicorns are getting injured by your plastic nets, and don’t have enough food to eat.” Initially, Aunt Mae responds to this warning with anger and denial. She retorts, “My village is a speck in the ocean! You’re asking us to sacrifice our livelihood for what? Barely making a difference.” As this exchange indicates, there are no villains in Aquicorn Cove. Instead, O’Neill underscores the ways that capitalism harms both the impoverished human villagers and the marine ecosystem they rely on for survival. 

The comic also highlights the connections between the ocean and the climate. During yet another storm, Lana realizes that the damaged coral reef has left the village increasingly vulnerable to hurricanes. She makes an impassioned plea for Aunt Mae to help the ocean, saying, “[I]f the reef dies, I think our village will die too.” Aunt Mae agrees that the village will stop using plastic fishing nets and return to the traditional, more sustainable fishing practices used by their ancestors. The Aquicorns also help the villagers create alternate income streams by finding lost items in the ocean for them to sell. This optimistic ending highlights the power of collective activism and the central role children can play in creating solutions for pressing environmental issues. The graphic novel also promotes ecocentrism by emphasizing the need for humans to restore balance with nature and recognize the agency of nonhuman entities.

Aquicorn Cove includes three pages of additional information about climate change, pollution, and other environmental issues affecting the ocean. This paratext suggests practical ways that young readers can help stop damage to the ocean and includes a short list of environmental organizations.

©2024 ClimateLit (Brianna Anderson)


“A “Gentle Fantasy” of Ocean Conservation: Environmental Justice in Aquicorn Cove.”

“Katie O’Neill Interview – Aquicorn Cove.”

Publisher: Oni Press, 2018

Pages: 96

Lexile Score: GN520L

ISBN: 978-1620105290

Audience: Ages 8-13

Format: Comics and Graphic Novels

Topics: Biodiversity, Biodiversity Loss, Capitalism, Climate Change, Climate Literacy, Collective Climate Action, Commercial Fishing, Coral Bleaching, Coral Reefs, Earth Care, Ecocentrism, Ecocide, Ecological Balance, Endangered Species, Fantasy, Global Warming, Hurricanes, Interconnectedness, Marine Ecosystems, Marine Pollution, Nature's Agency, Overfishing, Slow Violence, Sustainability, Youth Climate Activism