A reporter’s opportunity for an exclusive interview, rare lizards stolen from a museum exhibit, a helicopter flight to the jungle, and a germophobic prince are spliced together in quick succession in Geronimo Stilton Reporter: Operation Shufongfong. While the fast-paced adventure implied by such a list of narrative ingredients is certainly delivered, the graphic novel’s overall success is marred by its reliance on tired stereotypes.

Joining the seemingly endless permutations of Geronimo Stilton books, Geronimo Stilton Reporter is a new series of graphic novels for middle grade readers wherein popular character Geronimo Stilton, an anthropomorphic mouse, continues his adventures as an investigative reporter. While some Geronimo Stilton adventures involve time travel, Operation Shufongfong takes place entirely in a “present day” setting as Stilton and his nephew, Ben, while on their way to an exclusive interview that Stilton has secured with the visiting Prince Nogouda, witness the theft of two rare lizards . Putting two and two together, Ben and Stilton realize that Nogouda himself has had a hand in the theft. Along with Stilton’s sister, Thea, and cousin, Trap, they rush off to Nogouda’s jungle palace and investigate the mystery, rescuing the lizards along the way.

A tie-in with the new Geronimo Stilton Netflix show, the graphic novel reads like an animated cartoon itself, with quick pacing and lots of action. The smoothly-rendered illustrations by Alessandro Muscillo are colored in bold, eye-catching tones by Christian Aliprandi and effectively convey the plot’s constant action. Unfortunately, the way these illustrations depict some of the characters and settings and, indeed, the graphic novel’s characterization as a whole, is less successfully realized.

Most problematic is the villain, Prince Nogouda. Depicted wearing a turban (complete with a jewel and a feather) and kaftan, described as “mysterious,” and attended by fez-topped servants, Nogouda’s characterization is stereotypically orientalist. His palace in the jungle is similarly insensitive, scrambling together architectural motifs from sculptural Chinese dragons to Russian minarets to vaguely Islamic tile patterns, giving the sense that, in housing the graphic novel’s villain, the creators simply mixed together any details that felt “foreign” to their own sensibility, resulting in an offensively exoticizing gestalt. While the world of Geronimo Stilton is imaginary, featuring locales such as New Mouse City and the Bandel Jungle, the creators seem to have been unable to imagine anything beyond our own familiar and damaging stereotypes in creating their villain and his home.

A fast-paced graphic novel sure to entice Geronimo Stilton devotees—as well as those newly introduced to the character through Netflix—it is unfortunate that the creators of Geronimo Stilton Reporter: Operation Shufongong forfeited their responsibility to young readers by simply reproducing stereotypes which already have too much power.

Geronimo Stilton Reporter, vol. 1: Operation Shufongfong
By Geronimo Stilton
Art by Alessandro Muscillo Christian Aliprandi
ISBN: 9781629918716
Papercutz, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
Series Reading Order

  • Avery

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Avery is a relative newcomer to the world of comics and graphic novels who is nonetheless really excited about the medium’s capacity to enthrall, educate, and connect readers. Born and raised in the Midwestern U.S., Avery received both her undergraduate and MLS degrees from Indiana University but is now a transplant to Louisiana, where she is working as an adult services librarian and branch manager in the Tangipahoa Parish Library system. Besides reading, she’s also passionate about swimming, friendship, radical pedagogy, sewing, and trees. Her personal review blog can be found at https://aolundsmith.wixsite.com/bookcarousel.

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