penny doraThe day before Christmas, Penny finds a mysterious package on the front doorstep. When Christmas finally arrives and she opens the unlabeled package, assuming it’s from her distant father, she discovers a strange box. Her mom wants to toss it, but Penny secretly keeps it. It doesn’t take long for her to discover the box’s secret; it can grant wishes! Penny is a smart kid and is wary from the first. Even though she imagines it might be cool to wish for toys, friends, her parents to get back together, or to live back in her old house, she’s sure there must be a catch to the creepy box. Unfortunately, her best friend isn’t so cautious and soon Penny and her whole neighborhood are in danger. Can she stop the wishing box—and her friend Elizabethbefore it’s too late?

Sina Grace’s art is generally attractive and gives a good feel of the boredom Penny feels in her suburb and the wild changes the wishing box enacts, but in some places the art feels inconsistent. One of the most confusing parts for me was at the end, where Elizabeth’s mother asks what happened to her hair. However, despite repeated readings, I could see no difference in her hair throughout the entire story. The readers aren’t given an age for Penny Dora or Elizabeth; from their physical development they look to be in their early teens. However, they’re written in the story as much younger. While some girls do develop earlier, the facial expressions and overall depiction of the characters felt too old for the storyline.

Overall, the story and art felt inconsistent and random. While tweens do go through stages of jumping wildly from maturity to immaturity, it seemed weird that at one minute Penny is anticipating Christmas like a small child and receiving action figures and teddy bears and Elizabeth is imagining being a child’s vision of a “princess.” The next minute Penny is trapped in terrifying and somewhat adult situationsbeing controlled and attacked by her friend and having mature thoughts about the nature of wishing and how it can change things. Elizabeth’s sudden change from best friend to truly nasty enemy was also jarring. The scenes with Penny’s cat, Iggy, were the best of the story. His wish for ham was genuinely humorous and he was well-drawn.

This is the first title in a series and there are indications that future titles will not only include more allusions to fairy tales and myths but also more information on the mysterious wishing box. Bonus material includes sketches and the original short story written by Michael Stock’s eight year old daughter. This series is most likely to be enjoyed by younger children, I would say eight to ten. However, there are some frightening situations and symbol swearing, so the child would need to be fairly sophisticated to handle the tension and language. If your library has a large and avid population of graphic novel readers, especially of fantasy, this would be an acceptable additional purchase, but there are many other spooky fantasy adventures including Coraline, Amulet, and The Lost Boy which I would recommend first.

Penny Dora and the Wishing Box, vol. 1
by Michael Stock
Art by Sina Grace, Tamra Bonvillain
ISBN: 9781632152664
Image Comics, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: E-Everyone

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library


    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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