I have to admit that what first caught my eye about Spiral-Bound: Top Secret Summer was how the cover is designed to look like a spiral notebook. On the front there are fake 3-hole punches, a barcode and price tag, and a picture of a dog, rabbit, and elephant falling into the open mouth of a monster that’s been sketched across the cover. The back looks just like the brown cardboard of your regular spiral notebook, and the spine looks like a spiral binding, complete with a pencil stuck down inside. As I flipped through the pages I saw that they were made to look like lined paper, and there were doodles and notes jotted down on the inside covers and title page. As I started reading Spiral-Bound, I felt like I was reading a real notebook, and the design immediately dropped me inside this magical story filled with secrets and mysteries. It was like I had stumbled across a secret portal to another world and had been sent on a great adventure.
The story centers around a lively cast of characters: there’s Turnip, a talented but insecure elephant who is prone to daydreaming; Stucky, a friendly and confident dog; Ana, a plucky and determined rabbit who aspires to be a writer; and Emily the bird, who is a photographer and loyal friend to Ana. All of the characters are hiding a secret or two, and the town they live in has a secret of it’s own. Turnip and Stucky are in a summer art camp that’s making a top-secret sculpture garden that will be unveiled at the town park. The only problem is that there’s mysterious monster living in the park pond that the townspeople fear will eat them. Ana and Emily work for the local underground paper and their boss, a turtle named Kipper, has Ana assigned to do a review of the sculpture garden. But Ana is determined to unravel the mystery of the monster, and with Emily’s help she begins a secret investigation to uncover the truth. Luckily for them the paper has a series of hidden passages that lead to underground tunnels that the pair uses in their search for the facts. Kipper also gives Ana a top-secret notebook that shows all the passages and tunnels written in invisible lemon ink. As the tension gets higher and secrets are revealed, the characters make discoveries not only about the town, but about themselves as well.
Even though it was the cover that made me pick Spiral-Bound, what really made the story come to life was Renier’s skill as a storyteller. One way that Renier does this is in how he writes the characters so that they feel like real people with real personalities. They all have their strengths and flaws, and Renier shows how when they work together they are able to solve their problems. Renier also gave them these quirky little traits, like how Turnip creates sandwich art, or how Stucky has a passion for clay, and how Ana created a zine of recipes called Seconds? Try Thirds! that helps convince Kipper to hire her as a writer. The other thing that I really liked about Renier’s storytelling was how the characters and plots work together to create an entertaining story. Turnip, Stucky, Ana, and Emily’s stories are all interesting on their own, but it’s even more interesting to see how Renier weaves them together in the end. So if you’re looking for a little mystery and an escape from the summer heat, I’d definitely recommend taking an adventure filled trip into the world of Spiral-Bound.
Reviewed by Jenna Batchelor