Beneath the colorful, charming aesthetic of Jenny & the Eddies is a thoughtful commentary on viruses and vaccines. And in the elven kingdom, the people are about to find out just how menacing the monsters lurking in the shadows truly are.
Written and drawn by physician Richard Clinghan, who was inspired to create it after a 2019 measles outbreak in his home country of New Zealand, Jenny & the Eddies is a story with a deeper message about the importance of vaccinations. Not only does the 32-page comic book seek to entertain a young audience, it aims to promote vaccine safety, addressing conspiracy theories in a non-confrontational and engaging way, and providing new ways to talk about viruses and vaccines.
In Jenny & the Eddies, an elven town’s Spring Fling is in full swing as the people celebrate, dance, and party the night away. But the town soon discovers cold-like symptoms spreading through people’s homes. Jenny learns from her friend Jimmy that monsters are lurking in the nearby forest, and as the monsters silently stalk their victims and cause suffering, Jenny begins to question other citizens about them. She learns that once the monsters have targeted their prey, the townsfolk present symptoms like rashes, deafness, and pneumonia. Of course, it’s not enough for our hero Jenny to learn about what’s happening. She seeks to get to the bottom of the problem.
Jenny asks her grandfather about the forest monsters and learns they’ve always been around, but wonders why “each monster only visits a child once in a lifetime.” Jenny reads a book left out by her grandpa that tells of a beast in the forest that can protect elves from the monsters, and she goes in search of it. Throughout Jenny & the Eddies, Clinghan uses his art to uniquely represent the forest monsters as distinct viruses, namely measles, mumps, and rubella. It’s an engaging and imaginative method to visually represent each virus that can also help young audiences to build a connection with each monster.
While in the forest, Jenny is saved from the monsters by a friendly “dog-like” creature that she takes home and names Eddie, which represents the MMR vaccine. Eddie is always vigilant, brave, and loyal. He has a great memory, and even if our memories have faded, he will protect us for the rest of our lives. Clinghan seeks to look at the stigma of vaccines from a fresh perspective, focusing instead on the qualities and values they embody.
It becomes known that there are more “Eddies” in the forest, and soon most of the elves in the kingdom have one. But later, some of the elves begin sharing stories about the Eddies, saying they’re causing problems, and there’s a move to stop giving them to the children. In particular, Jeremy tells lies about the Eddies and even says they make the children whistle – something the kingdom has previously complained about. It’s here that Clinghan explores how anti-vaccination views can misguide parents, and the storyline and characters create situations that expose misinformation about vaccines, and show how to stand up to these arguments.
Jenny & the Eddies also feature a bonus comic, “The White Blood Cells & The Blueprint,” that expands on the themes of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and vaccine safety.
Clinghan’s story and art present a refreshing and vibrant narrative on viruses and vaccines. The bright purples, yellows, and greens stand out across every page, giving life to the elvish town. It’s easy to engage with the gross, oozing monsters as they prey on children in the night, and the book presents the threat of viruses in a humorous, charming tone. While the story progresses quite quickly and the pacing can be a little jarring, Jenny & the Eddies is an enjoyable read for young kids to learn more about vaccines and viruses in an engaging, non-threatening manner.
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