Getting adopted to a “forever home” should be great news for 12-year-old Audrey, who has spent almost her whole life in the foster care system. In Audrey’s Magic Nine, however, she not only encounters unexpected and unwelcome pressures from her new adoptive parents, but also terrifying nighttime noises, talking puppets only she can hear, and powers she never knew she had.
After being rescued from an abusive foster home by police officers, Audrey is taken back to the foster institution where she has largely grown up. She is soon adopted by the Hinkles, a couple with questionable motives, who seem determined to live vicariously through Audrey, as well as use her achievements to gain the approval of their peers. She is immediately enrolled in countless before- and after-school extracurricular activities. Audrey is a quiet girl who is use to spending time alone and making sense of her world through drawing. She gets overwhelmed, but remains obedient and uncomplaining. On top of all this, she soon discovers that a puppet she has owned since she arrived at the foster institution can talk—only to her—and claims to be a warrior from another realm who has been turned into a puppet along with eight other leaders of his world.
Volumes one and two of Audrey’s Magic Nine are cute and fun, detailing the story of Audrey setting out to find and gather the rest of the scattered puppets/leaders of the council while dealing with her new life with the Hinkles. Audrey is a vibrant and interesting character, explored consistently through her drawings. Each volume ends with a few bonus stories giving the reader glimpses of the council members before they were transformed into puppets.
Although the book touches on serious topics, such as as abuse and adoption, the tone is fairly light, and in some cases I was even surprised at how unaffected the characters seemed. The adults in the book also act strangely, almost childishly, in terms of their thinking and behavior; for example, most of the Hinkles’ lives is driven by a desire to gain the approval of their “friends,” who generally bully them like children. There is not a huge amount of emotional depth to the story, but younger readers may not be bothered by this approach.
The art is creative and colorful, and I enjoyed the use of Audrey’s artwork, presented in a different style from the main artwork, to tell parts of the story. The art has just enough background detail to situate the reader and to create context. Crowds of background characters usually include a decent amount of diversity in terms of gender, race, and body type, though there is not a lot of representation of disability in the book.
Overall, Audrey’s Magic Nine is a light and entertaining comic. It’s always nice to see stories of young black girls encountering magic and going on the type of adventures traditionally undertaken by white children. The book is categorized by the publisher as a middle-grade book for ages 8 and up. Although it does work for all ages, I believe the pacing and tone may be appreciated more by younger readers. Volumes one and two cover Audrey’s discovery of seven puppets, so I’m guessing the narrative will wrap up after one more volume. In fact, the comic just recently finished on its official website (http://www.themagicnine.com), which includes free access to all previous chapters. Checking out the website would be a great way to preview the books and get a feel for them.
Audrey’s Magic Nine
by Michelle Wright
Art by Courtney Huddleston, Francesco Gebrino, Tracy Bailey
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9780984214358
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9780999170922
Penny-Farthing Productions, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Middle Grade (8+)