The Beauty of Questions in Rebecca Sugar’s The Answer

The Answer feature from Cartoon Network-books

The Answer cover from Cartoon Network BooksThe Answer

Rebecca Sugar (writer), Elle Michalka (artist), and Tiffany Ford (artist)
Cartoon Network Books

The Answer is a picture book version of the Steven Universe episode of the same name, in which Garnet tells Steven how Ruby and Sapphire first met. Unlike the episode “The Answer,” which kicks off with Garnet waking Steven on his birthday, the book follows the gems as they fuse for the first time and eventually choose to be Garnet. Each page has a gem and leaf-framed rectangle at the top and bottom, with Ruby inhabiting the bottom and Sapphire narrating from the top. These (even more) miniaturized Ruby and Sapphires reveal their center page counterparts’ inner thoughts and worries, and depict the pairs’ emotional journey.

Sugar introduces the world through Sapphire’s narration, and while her descriptions are accurate and her voice distinct, the absence of the word “aliens” – Sapphire instead says “space-faring race” – makes it potentially confusing for young readers unfamiliar with the show. However, confusion comes to play an important role in the book; when Ruby saves Sapphire and they accidentally fuse for the first time, the act of fusion completely disrupts Sapphire’s commentary. It’s clear that she was certain how her story would end, and with that clear ending gone, the two heroines begin asking questions about themselves and each other, and do not stop until the end of the book. The beauty and joy Ruby and Sapphire experience together is as equally compelling as these questions; readers may finish the book feeling unsatisfied, but they will also flip back to the beginning and eagerly read again.

The Answer's Borders via Cartoon Network Books
Ruby and Sapphire reveal their internal, emotional processes by inhabiting the borders of each page. via Cartoon Network Books

Artists Elle Michalka and Tiffany Ford have created a style that, while distinctly different from that of the show, is stunning and perfect for this story. The art is lineless, and Michalka’s soft, blended but bright painting style gives the book an ethereal tone. Ford’s adorable, big-eyed character designs make Ruby and Sapphire even cuter than they already were, and she blends the edges of shapes – especially hair – with a spongy texture; a tactic that at times soften images and, at others, reveals the characters’ anxiety. These artists are a dream team whose work enormously heightens the emotional impact of the book.

For fans of Steven Universe, The Answer is a beautiful accompaniment to a story that illuminates some of Ruby and Sapphire’s internal processes as they embark on their journey to become Garnet. Unfamiliar readers will find a complex but fascinating tale that will likely pull them into the show as they seek to understand why the answer to all of Garnet’s questions is “love.” Same sex parents or families with non-heterosexual children will especially fall in love with this book, but it’s also a way for parents and educators to open up conversations about relationships and the process of discovery.

Alenka Figa

Alenka Figa

Alenka is a queer librarian and intense cat parent. They spends their days reading zines and indie comics, and twittering about D&D podcasts @alenkafiga.