Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As new member Mia gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. Soon, though, Mia reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.
An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.
Tillie Walden is a cartoonist and illustrator from Austin, Texas. Born in 1996, she is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies, a comics school in Vermont. Over the course of her time at CCS she published three books with the London based Avery Hill Publishing. She has already received an Eisner Award nomination and two Ignatz Awards for her early works. When she is not drawing comics, Tillie can be found walking and listening to audiobooks or asleep with a cat. She also enjoys studying architecture and tries to incorporate that passion into her comics. Spinning is her first long form autobiographical work.
Read here Preferably at 2am while curled up under blanket and contemplating existence.
"I read that chapter you showed me. About how I should think of all the circuits and wires like they're roads. And that it's like one big map. Every part is unique, but they're all connected. I think I sorta get it . . ."
Mia begins her adult life and gets a job in reconstruction with a small team which consist of two married women, a niece of one of them, and a non-binary person. But the story is not linear - it also takes us 5 years back to Mia experiencing her first love. So, there're two stories: Mia and her chosen family on the ship and Mia and Grace. They interwind and finally merge together. Every part is unique, but they're all connected.
This story made me feel things I didn't know I could feel. I cried, cried, cried. And I regret not one tear.
The art is simple but not lazy or boring. This simplicity gives every detail much more impact and keeps the focus on all the intense emotions.
I love how the scarce usage of colours left me wondering about the meaning of each of them. The story starts with only two and both of them are cold. We get purple for present and blue for the past. Progressively, warmer hues are added. It usually happens when Mia feels something - when somebody leaves some impact.
I like to think that the present purple came from Mia's blue and the red she felt with Grace.
You know this edits ‘x song heard from the other room’? Somehow Mia’s emotions managed to capture the essence of it. It’s like a distant song about longing heard from the room you’re not in anymore while you try to get on with your life. Mia wants to get some closure. And she's ready to work hard even if that's the only thing she ever gets. She goes after Grace with no expectations other than saying goodbye.
She grows from an impulsive little girl into an amazing mature woman. And she gains much more than she thought she would.
I still squeal with glee whenever I think about this book. Honestly, On A Sunbeam by the immensely talented Tillie Walden is such a balm for my soul and I’ve returned to it many times when I needed something to cheer me up. Set in a non-specific future--one far enough in the future where human civilizations have come and gone across it’s galaxy leaving long lost secrets--the book intertwines a present narrative of a building restoration crew with the school-age past of its newest member, Mia. Having had a beautiful love story with her schoolmate Grace ripped from her, Mia is adrift in life, looking for a place to belong and a means to believe in herself. This is a book where you will laugh, cry and swell with love along with the characters. Told through absolutely gorgeous artwork, On a Sunbeam is an incredibly moving story about finding yourself and found-families that come together in love and support for one another.
It's like the older you get the more you forget that you can change things.
Having struggled with feelings of underachievement despite a strong drive to do what she wants, Mia finds solace in a shy new student, Grace, at her boarding school. Right as it starts, Grace is taken away and lost to Mia in the vastness of the universe. In the present she has joined a crew that restores buildings, often ancient ruins. The first half of the book is an emotional buildup that covers love, loss, friendship and loyalty that presents a lot of mystery to be unveiled in the second, more action-y half of the book. Who and what is the Staircase, why has El refrained from speaking for years, why did Grace have to leave so abruptly? The second half is less emotionally engaging yet lives up to the promise of the premise.
While the story alone is an engaging emotional roller coaster, the artwork is what truly sends it soaring. Tillie Walden is simply brilliant at her work. Publishing her first graphic novel, The End of Summer, at the age of 19, she would go on to become one of the youngest recipients to the Eisner Award at 22 with her lovely autobiographical book Spinning. On a Sunbeam--winner of the Lost Angeles Times Book Prize and also nominated for an Eisner--features breathtaking art in minimal color palettes from sprawling sci-fi landscapes to her wonderfully expressive signature character designs.
There is something so incredibly freeing about this book and Walden has the perfect touch to bring about a whole slew of feelings. It is particularly sensitive to the feelings of the reader as well as it’s characters, handling gracefully queer romances and non-binary characters such as El. El does not speak for the majority of the novel and this alludes to a tragedy that they must have faced in their past. Each character in the found-family respects one another for their differences and acknowledges how that helps them be a better team together. Walden also sets up a bittersweet LGBTQ love story set in an ambiguous sci-fi universe where men seem to not even be present (at least not within the scope of the book). While someone may likely make an argument how that minimizes LGBTQ struggles by erasing the violence and bigotry faced, it was nice to enjoy a story for one where the struggles faced aren’t so front and center in the coming-of-age aspect and can be treated with the same sense of normalcy hetero love stories have been priveledged with forever. There is a racial divide (something that is a motif in the tragic love plots in nearly all of Walden’s work), but the ambiguous utopian sense in this book works especially because no attention is drawn to it. I was nearly finished with my first read before I even realized it. I sort of love how there is no explanation, two mothers just have daughters and we accept it and that's cool (I was similarly charmed in the tv series She-Ra where Bow has two fathers and 8 brothers and that's just how it is).
While the love story seems to drive much of the action, at its heart On a Sunbeam is a story about accepting yourself and finding your place in the universe. One of the final frames perfectly and wordlessly drives this point home in a single shot that will instantly start pumping the tears. This is about finding strength in yourself, learning to receive love as well as give it, and trusting in those you love. It's one to revisit if you ever need to remind yourself to love yourself, or to just sit in awe at Walden's sheer genius and artistic glory. This is such a gorgeous novel and I love to share it with others. Do yourself a favor and check it out, especially if you need a little soul soothing.
This is the most expansive, unique, deeply emotional story I’ve read in a long time. It has humor and passion and love and family and the dedication to tell a story the right way with the most beautiful images. It’s also my new favorite graphic novel of all time.
Such a delightful and thoughtful read. I loved the multiple timelines, the way Tillie played with colour to differentiate not just between two timelines, but later also to guide the reader through scenarios as the characters split up. I was really impressed by how it both feels very cosy, whimsical and nostalgic, while being full of action, drama and intense relationships. And it left out just enough of the world building and character backgrounds to keep you wondering! I can see how at some points the visualisation could leave people a bit confused, but if you stick with the story, it all comes together wonderfully. This is one that will stay with me for a long time and I can't wait to read more of Tillie Walden's graphic novels. Also: 💫🚀 s p a c e ✨😍
12/21/18: Just to say that thought I read this for a long time in web-comic format, I recommend the recently published paperback version I just got from the library. Some observations: I bet the (visual) tone of it is much darker than Walden intended. This is just something that struck me after reading the larger images online, that when the images were shrunk for the book format, they got darker, of course. But for a book with sun in the title, it seems more moon than sun(ny) now. Still, after the tome Spinning from last year, Sunbeam is 532 pages! Who is as prolific as this, and maintaining this stunning standard for drawing!? But no, I am not going to sit down and reread it again right now, sorry, to see if I might like the story better in this format. I bet I would, though.
On a Sunbeam is a 20 chapter long webcomic that has been collected in a one volume edition I just ordered so I can see if it reads better as a book, though I suspect it will.
The comic is gorgeous but feels very (too) long, maybe in part due to the webcomic format, but not much really happens. One whole chapter is wordless, but many panels are wordless, and not much talking takes place. Not much action, either. The story features Mia, and her friend Grace. The rest is hard to relate, really. Mia isn’t good at school, which takes place in a floating, crumbling building in space. Part of the work the girls do is rebuild the various rooms in the building. They go to The Staircase, a planet they visit, where Mia gets lost. This gives Walden a chance to draw space stuff and a new planet. This is a space fantasy, where the action is less important than everything the reader/viewer brings to the story. Nothing happens for any clear reason, but then the story is no really the point here.
The point is really that Walden likes to draw architecture, and girls—there are no men in this story at all, as in only moms, no dads, and some of the girls—all of the girls?!—are either in relationships with each other or not yet. This is glbtq space, too, obviously. The women/girls often look very much alike—Walden loves to draw women, but she has her preferences for drawing young, thin, waifs, the stuff of youthful fantasy.
In addition to doing stuff with architecture of the crumbling school what else do they do? They study, they take tests, they participate in a spaceship race, the Lux competition, they get in anguished emotional scuffles. And these are young women—the physical intimacy depicted here is basically hugs and looking into each other’s eyes, and a couple kisses. It’s all feels, few words. The relationships gets depicted as a series of tableaux, in pastels. It’s images of relationships. These are young, lovely, lean women of a certain privilege, a private girls’ school, basically. They are not in real peril, no one is starving or really hurt.
I say all that like it’s a bad thing, but it is hard to believe anyone could give the stunning art for this volume anything less than 7 stars, it’s just breath-taking, accomplished by a young genius of an artist. Unbelievably prolific—you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and she posts stuff multiple times a day, and it is awesome. So this comic mainly exists for the art, and the rest is feels, the hugs, the sweetness and the non-speaking shy anguish. If you want to skip the dialogue and just look at it, that would be perfectly acceptable, I think.
I began reading it April 2018, read some, stopped, came back to it in August, finished it now in a 6 chapter rush, so the story is not exactly compelling, I say. I rate it 3.5 to distinguish it from the shorter comics from her Is--so far--seem to prefer.
As with Monstress, you don’t really know what is going on in the world, and you don’t really deeply know any of the characters, but the feelings generated and the art will make many readers fall in love with it. I love Walden’s art and read her other long form story, Spinning, and thought that was similarly okay as a story, but I think I prefer the short stuff if it is going to just be atmospherically pretty. When Walden gets the right story to tell, when she marries that to her stunning art, that will be amazing. I will keep reading her stuff no doubt. She's one of the best already.
From the author of Spinning which I loved. This is a story set in space in what feels like the future. Lots of imagination on display here with great new things. I love the spaceship which looks like a flying fish.
I did have issue with this story. To me, the girls looked similar for the most part and I couldn't keep up who was who and what was going on. It was fairly confusing for me and I'm not entirely sure what just happened. Many things are never explained. Who is Ell? What is she wanted for? What is the staircase? I mean so many questions never answered. I suppose that is like life right.
I know there are Grace and Mia and it was a world full of girls, there were no male characters. There are flashbacks between Mia working a job in a spaceship and when she went to boarding school. I thought the art was engaging; it drew you in and it was a feeling of otherworldlyness to it. It was good, but I couldn't distinguish this characters.
This is unique and interesting and a good story. I simply struggled to understand a bit.
3.5 stars. This graphic novel was gorgeously illustrated, with some lovely art of space that I just had to take a bunch of pictures of. I liked the f/f romance aspect of it and the way it was portrayed, but I felt I couldn’t really get attached to the characters very much and the plot wasn’t the most original. Would recommend picking this up though!
The artwork in this was beautiful and the story was cute in certain parts but overall this was mediocre.
Major plot holes took away from my enjoyment of the book and left me with more questions than answers.
It used a mute character as a plot device for shock value.
The pretty artwork focused more on aesthetics than creating an understandable panel.
I know this is petty but at one point a hand was very clearly drawn backwards and that also took me out of the story.
I’m pretty sure there are no men in this universe yet a character is non binary. Which makes you wonder how someone can be non binary if there is no binary. It implies there could be trans characters as well but how would that work in a world with only females? Again more questions than answers.
I liked the first half, which is two stories five years apart connected by the main character. In one she is a rebellious schoolgirl experiencing first love; in the other a recent graduate at her first job, restoring old buildings. In spaaaaace.
In the middle the actual plot begins to emerge and I didn't find it very satisfactory in terms of any of the characters' motivations.
And I am a little puzzled as to what it means to have non-binary gender in a world that appears to have only women in it. Please set me straight if I am being dumb here.
But it was still an okay book that I would recommend to someone looking for stories about adventure and friendship among women. I would probably read something else by author/illustrator.
why did goodreads delete my original review repeating “oh my god” fifty times :(
reread 12/27/20: I did not love this as much as the first time I read this BUT it’s still one of my favorite graphic novels/webcomics! This is a beautifully illustrated book about found family sapphics in space and making your way back to people you once lost, following a crew on a spaceship as they renovate old places and eventually attempt to track down a past love. The colors of the art are so gorgeous and exude the perfect sort of quiet calmness that you can only find in space, and I appreciated the art so much more reading it again (in physical format this time!). The found family is probably my favorite part of the story; it’s so tender to see the way the characters have come to love each other in their own different ways, especially those who are a little lost and trying to find their path. On a Sunbeam is a quiet, simple story imbued with love and brought to life with soft art that replicates the feeling of being welcomed home.
:: representation :: wlw MC and I think every single female character is wlw (there are no men), wlw Black LI, non-binary character, wlw Black character
I'm not dating the 12% of you that I understand, I'm dating 100% of you. Including all your secrets that I don't know. So don't you ever say I'd hate you because that's stupid and not true.
I NEED YOU ALL TO GET OUT OF THIS PLATFORM, I WANT TO BE ALONE. This novel hit me right in my feelings and I'm sobbing right now.
Through the deepest reaches of space, a team reconstructs beautiful and crumbling structures, rescuing minutely the past. When the new integrant, Mia, joins the group, the tale travels to a crucial year of her life, when she fell in love with Grace. However, she doesn't join the group to do the job but to reconnect with her after five years. The crew is conformed by the leaders, a married couple, Alma and Char, Jules and Elliot who is non-binary.
The story is pretty interesting because is not linear, it takes us back five years ago, when Mia and Grace meet each other, but it starts with Mia joining the crew. Another particularity is that there are no men in the tale (already a five-star point, let's be honest).
The drawings are insane, crazy, nuts! You can see the shift in the colors palette when there is a change of circumstances or emotions. The color palette, limited and with many contrasts, stands out completely, which serves to provoke the effect of the immensity of space, and the way in which the characters are positioned in the vignette only magnifies this feeling.
I fell in love with every single one of the characters, with their personalities and with the family they created, even though they weren't blood-related. In simple words, this is an underrated piece of art.
Everyone should read this at least once in their lives.
This book completely blew me away. I had already read and enjoyed other books by Tillie Walden, but this book exhibits her skills both as an artist and a writer at a completely new level. The pacing of the story, the style of the story, the plot and the emotions of the story are all braided into a completely seamless whole. Has anyone optioned the film rights for this story yet? I felt like I was hearing a soundtrack playing in my head as I read it. The story focuses on two different emotional times in the life of one woman named Mia. In the "current" timeline she has just started a new job as part of a spaceship crew that flies to different locations and does renovations on the mysterious, crumbling architecture of past civilizations. In the "past" timeline, we see Mia as a first year at a girls boarding school meet, befriend, and slowly fall in love with another student named Grace. Slowly the backgrounds of these two, and of the member's of Mia's crew, are unfolded to reveal a web of connections that I was surprised and delighted by. At this heart, this is a book about friendship, budding queer love and of growing into independence and self-confidence. In a total power move, Tillie Walden did not include a single male character in this 533 page story. We meet a nonbinary character who uses they/them pronouns, but other than that this is a universe entirely inhabited by girls and women. I loved it.
DROP WHATEVER YOU'RE DOING AND GO READ THIS MASTERPIECE
- there are no men - all the characters are badass - tons of sapphic romance - the art is fucking gORGEOUS - beautiful friendship and family dynamics - character development !!! - we choose our family <3<3<333 - you will cry you will laugh and you will end up feeling full of love
Long graphic novel but well worth it, an F/F space-based sci-fi journey about a young woman finding her lost love. Mia signs on with a ship that travels to abandoned sites and renovates/restores them. She makes friends with the crew - one nonbinary person and the rest are women - and eventually enlists them to travel to a forbidden planet so she can say goodbye to the girl she loved.
It's told in a combination of present events and flashbacks to Mia's school romance, and I felt like both parts were in good balance. The secondary characters are well developed. There's so much lovely queer rep. This was my next Tillie Walden read after Spinning and it didn't disappoint. It's just so warm and affirming, and a gorgeous affirmation of the value of friendship.
Fenomenalne. Świetna kreacja i sposób przedstawienia świata, który żyje w tle i jest fascynujący, ciekawa fabuła, ciekawe kreacje bohaterów i relacje między nimi, a do tego przepiękna warstwa wizualna. Czasem w kadry wkładał się lekki chaos i miałem problem z odczytaniem co dokładnie dzieje się na danym rysunku, ale nie przeszkadzało mi to szczególnie, bo całość jest fantastyczna. Same plusy, żadnego minusa, wspaniała to była lektura, nie zapomnę jej nigdy.
On a Sunbeam was a fantastic coming-of-age lesbian romance sandwiched between stunning artwork, but I got so lost trying to figure out how things were happening that I couldn't fully appreciate the story. The main character, Mia, has a soft and sweet relationship with Grace, a new student at her boarding school, but then, five years later, she's part of an all-female crew planet-hopping through space to restore crumbling architecture. Cool! But like... where does this book take place? A teacher mentions interplanetary colonization ("there was a large movement of young people to the rural fields area around Jupiter in the early '50s") but is it our Jupiter? Which "50s"? Is this the future or an alternate timeline? Does Earth exist? Are they living on it right now?
One of the best parts of the book is how natural and easy the f/f pairings are. Practically everyone we meet is female, and any disparaging comments made about Mia and Grace's relationship happen because of regular 'ole teenage bullying instead of their gender. Feminine pronouns are explicitly used save for one character, Elliot, who is non-binary using they/them pronouns. So the gender binary exists... but not men? Like, do men just not exist in this story or do they not exist in this world? Characters use terms like girlfriend, mother, sister, and aunt but do they know that they're using gendered pronouns? If yes, why enforce the dichotomy by having Elliot break it?
I know that most readers absolutely adored this story, but being thrown into a fantasy world with little to no explanation just didn't do it for me. I couldn't help but question everything–which I knew was taking away from my own enjoyment, but my mind wouldn't quit. Like, why are the spaceships shaped like fish? How do the buildings float and keep their inhabitants alive? What the heck does Mia learn in her boarding school? Cellphones exist but I guess not email or the internet? Mia literally "want[s] to infiltrate one of the most deadly and secluded areas of space... to talk to" Grace but she can't, I don't know, look her up somewhere???
Walden's illustrations were seriously gorgeous, with even the coloring contributing to the narrative, but I didn't even have the patience to stare at the background details because I remained confused for literally the entire novel. My focus drifted among characters who looked the same and gave important backstory through quick dialogue. By the end, though, I was quickly flipping pages, hoping that maybe the next one would give me some clarity. (Spoiler: it never did.)
Full disclosure: I don't usually like graphic novels due to their lack of words. Pictures just don't do it for me. But I got a copy of this book from a friend so I gave it a try. It did not go well.
The art style was a huge bust for me. Everybody and everything is constantly in shadow, and I wished I could turn up the brightness on the page. I legitimately could not tell who was speaking or where they were or WHEN they were. The dark colors and shadows did not help, but neither did the fact that all the characters look almost identical with similar body builds, hair styles, and facial features. Fleshing out the setting in pictures could have been wonderful, but it was so, SO unclear.
The science part of sci-fi totally tanked. Why are they on another planet? What are the fish-spaceships and how do they work? Why are there ONLY WOMEN left in civilization? That part could have been super cool - a cast of all female and non-binary characters. I'm on board. But nothing was explained. Like, men have to exist in this world because 1) babies happen (unless they've evolved past the need for men but didn't explain it), 2) male names exist (the cat is named Paul), and 3) the term non-binary exists in their vocabulary, so binary genders must also exist (or have existed in the past). That's great (I guess) that men aren't even mentioned but it just doesn't make sense.
It's like the author tried to add depth to the characters but it didn't work. Elliot has a crazy-dramatic back story but it's super vague. What about Mia's family? Who the actual heck are the other characters and how did their relationships evolve? I did like the backstory of the boarding school but it ended very quickly. Also, there's a part where a bully locks Mia in a room that seemed like a bit of a ripoff from All Summer in a Day.
I can't say much more because I honestly didn't know what was happening due to the lousy art style and the scarcity of words. Walden did not get this proofread by a qualified editor because there's a typo near the middle (which is impressive because there are very few words to actually proofread!), and maybe a good editor could have told her that nothing makes any damn sense and that you have to squint to see which characters are in each frame.