In an interview with publisher No Brow, author-illustrator Jen Lee explains:
"Recurring themes in my work are animals, teens, abandonment and the supernatural. I love exploring the way animals think; how they may internalise their environment changing. Abandoned and destroyed areas (whether from nature or people) and the unknown that may stem from this can create a paranormal element."What would a real garbage night be? Enough dumpster leftovers outside retailers and restaurants to lead to good pickings to lead to full bellies and satisfying sleep. Tight and reasonably trusting with each other, Simon the dog, Reynaud a deer, and Cliff raccoon ransack their devastated city, hoping for another garbage night. No human inhabitants left? Why would that matter? They'd found good eats before. Along the way they sort of admit Barnaby pooch into their circle. For a while. Then rationalize why of course it's good he's gone.
Back cover description tells is, "Juvenile animals strive to survive across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in this striking parable about the nature of freedom and friendship." The popular sense of apocalyptic is an end of the world scenario with earth emptied of everything that sustains life; an apocalypse literally is an uncovering, unveiling, revealing. Both Hebrew and Christian scriptures include many apocalyptic passages that point toward the end of apparently hopeless circumstances, assurance for a world rebirthed from the ashes of the old.
Final scene: the trio of friends overlook night lights of a city that must have human residents (because of city lights, right?) that likely would lead to more Garbage Nights. At least if there's "a good cat population down there – where there's cats, there's banquets." But what'll Simon do when he gets there? "I want to find home." Home? Where the people who dumped him ("dropped him off") maybe still reside? But what is home? Hasn't Simon found safety and security with his deer and raccoon companions? Is belonging and trust the measure of home? Or is settled shelter essential? Both?
Is wandering at will without permanent housing too high a price for not always having a meal at hand? Is food for the body the ultimate safety and security? [I'm a theologian and will comment] the biblical witness shows us true freedom has limits and boundaries. And constraints that usually include living as part of a community of others, constantly considering what impact our actions and decisions could have on their well-being. Is this a coming of age story? Or is it about twenty-first century anomie and rootlessness? About the unknown on the other side of any risk-taking? About the terror of abandoning a comfortable known for an unknown future? All of the above, plus anything else you want to read into it. I mentioned apocalyptic reveals the end of the status quo of "the world as we have known it" along with the surprising beginning of something very other than. On the right front endpaper of Garbage Night, a voice speaks from the sky, "today will be great, Simon."
Illustrator-author Jen Lee sure knows how to convey mood with a color palette; her zero-human population "post-apocalyptic wasteland" city excites the imagination more than any movie set, yet leaves some room for a reader to create even more. To quote its cover, now I'm ready for "Jen Lee's original comic Vacancy" that's tucked in at the back of Garbage Night. One reviewer suggested reading Vacancy first, but I didn't want it to interfere with my perception of Garbage Night.
My Amazon Review: Garbage Night by Jen Lee