This may be a story you think you’ve heard before: a princess, a knight, magic, and perils overcome by true love. You’d be wrong. In this version, the princess is a car mechanic, the knight a sweet and melancholy mechanical product of her loneliness, and the perils are the far more common dangers of prejudice, violence, low self-esteem, and the cruelty of expectations, both the world’s and the ones we put on ourselves. Jo, our princess, is a stick of a girl with little more than genius mechanical know-how and a sweet nature to get her through the world. Sometimes that’s enough, especially on the night she creates, with a Frankensteinian addition of lightning, a metal knight built entirely from spare car parts. Most of the time, though, the glares of “real” girls Jo desperately wants to be, the bellowing of a drunken father, the silence of valium-addled of a mother, and the stream of disappointments in her social life affect Jo more than she’d like to admit. Her one source of comfort is the unlikely knight: he learns to speak through flashcards, dubs himself Galahad, and carries Jo across the night rooftops far away from her troubles. In teaching Galahad about the world, Jo begins to see a way out of her life, as well as the problems she must face before she can be what she dreams. The artwork in this tale is fluid and simple — utterly perfect for the story presented. Too much detail might have made Galahad unbelievable, but the calligraphic lines of Marvit’s work make every line a soulful look or a shimmer of movement. Love, loss, and a wandering path to independence weave through Sparks — it is not a tale I will soon forget. Great for older teens and adults.

Sparks: An Urban Fairytale
ISBN: 0943151627
by Lawrence Marvit
Slave Labor Graphics 2002

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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