Jen Lee’s characters, like Pinocchio or a Dickensian hero, are always hungry. The title Garbage Night refers to the hallowed night that three teenage animals wait for, but never comes because all the humans in the neighborhood have moved on. It’s a dystopian, possibly post-apocalyptic cartoon setting. Soon the dog-deer-raccoon trio meet a scroungy dog named Barnaby, who promises a shortcut to a town where humans still reside. Bright colors and bouncy drawings carry this story of friendship, trust, and fear.
The book also includes Lee’s prequel comic Vacancy, which I recommend reading first because it sets up the story with Simon the dog meeting Cliff the raccoon and Reynard the deer. Very little happens over the course of the book—the trio encounter a gang of wolves and a scary cap-wearing bear, and squabble with each other over food and where to go. The trustworthiness of newcomer Barnaby is called into question, and the trio begin what may be a slow breakup of friendship. Lee’s work for TV animation for Nickelodeon, as well as her semi-animated webcomic Thunderpaw, seem to have prepared her well for creating animal characters who are charming and full of character. Though Garbage Night leaves the reader wanting more, it’s a bite-sized treat of a book.