The story opens in a mysterious and rather unsavory tavern, full of strange creatures… three pages later, the reader meets Nina, purple-haired, clumsy, and disgruntled with life in general. The rapid change of scene sets the pace for this exuberant, colorful introduction to the world of Nina and Sybil.
Nina’s boring back to school day with her single mom and little brother erupts into sparkling life when she opens her backpack and discovers a little monster, who turns out to be Pandigole, the personal assistant of Sybil the fairy, who has also moved into her backpack. Despite Sybil’s constant assurances that she’s there to help, things quickly explode into chaos with ancient Egyptians, annoyed teachers, stuck-up girls, secret tunnels, strange monsters and mean fairies! What is Sybil’s secret mission? Why did she get sent to Nina? Who are the mysterious creatures that suddenly appear? What do the strange signs in the tunnel mean? Only time – or the next book – will tell! Nina knows her life will never be the same and she likes it that way!
Rodrigue’s perky dialogue, peppered with exclamation points, is the perfect fit for Dalena and Razzi’s rainbow-hued art and swirls of fairy sparkles. Characters’ eyes bug out comically, Sybil’s green hair poufs with excitement and Nina spins through her world in hues of purple and pink and a dazzle of open-mouthed and wide-eyed excitement. The details of the fairy world are humorously grungy, including the bottled monsters and traditional bartender, unfazed by flying monsters or motion sick living dice. Even Nina’s mother develops a distinct personality in her brief appearances through her mobile facial expressions.
This first volume develops the basic characters of the story and some background, but is noticeably short on actual plot. However, readers will be having so much fun meeting Nina, Sybil, and all their friends, that they probably won’t notice until they’re hooked and ready for the next volume, Amanite, which promises to explain some of the mysteries introduced in Nina.
Sybil the Backpack Fairy will be a popular additional choice for elementary ages who have already devoured Papercutz’ Tinker Bell series and Jill Thompson’s Magic Trixie. Make sure you purchase the affordable hardcovers, as Papercutz’ paperbacks, like most publisher’s paperback graphic novels, will not last through multiple circulations.*
The tavern scenes may bother some parents, but it’s clearly a different world (and they’re probably drinking bottled monsters and not the whiskey anyways). Of more concern will be Nina’s cheerful acceptance of Sybil’s assistance – in doing her homework, cleaning her room, and whispering answers in her ear doing school. Of course, most of this “help” backfires into bigger messes, but the ensuing chaos isn’t presented as a consequence, which will be an issue for some readers.*Edited for clarification. Please see the comments for discussion of the change.
Sybil the Backpack Fairy, vol. 1: Nina
by Michel Rodrigue
Art by Antonello Dalena, Manuela Razzi, Cecilia Giumento