Brazilian cartoonist Mauricio de Sousa has written and drawn the comic series Monica for a little over fifty years. Centered on the adventures of a group of children (Monica, J-Five, Maggy, and Smudge), the series has a long history of popularity in Brazil, appearing in movies, cartoons, and in print. Now in their teenage years, the gang are faced with typical adolescent issues (dating, money, friendships, etc.), but the nostalgia for their younger days is still very much present. It becomes a reminder of where these characters originated and whether or not they have grown up since then.
In the first book of the series, Monica Adventures #1: Who Can Afford the Price of Friendship Today?, readers are introduced to the gang, as well as other characters within the series. Monica and her friends decide to go to the movies but they don’t have enough money. As the boys go to the comic book store to trade in some old comics, the girls pet sit for the afternoon. However, going to see the newest movie is easier said than done when their classmate Tony decides to derail their plans. The following book Monica Adventures #2: We Fought Each Other as Kids…Now We’re in Love?! explores the possible romantic relationship between Monica and J-Five. Ever since they were children, J-Five and Monica were always at odds with one another, usually resulting in Monica hitting him over the head with her stuffed blue bunny. But now, things may change when the two start showing romantic feelings for one another. Everyone is happy at first, but it causes tension when the two are unable to leave each other’s side for just a moment.
The storylines for both graphic novels are reminiscent of tween and teen comedies, providing enough entertainment that tween readers can enjoy. Fourth wall breaks and various pop culture references and parodies add to the books’ humor and invite readers to seek out any easter eggs they may recognize. De Sousa’s artwork is a black and white manga style, providing characters with big glassy eyes and over the top expressions during stressful or sad situations. Most scenes feel like a comedic or dramatic moment from a traditional anime, especially when a panel has a lightning or flowery background. A brief introduction into the iconic Monica series can be found at the end of the first book, as well as a letter by De Sousa for the readers. There are also introductions for each of the main characters, letting readers know about their individual quirks and other striking characteristics.
The Monica Adventures graphic novel series is a great addition for public and school libraries, especially with those who serve tween patrons (6th-8th graders) who are avid manga readers. Patrons who enjoy graphic novels that take place within a middle school, such as Raina Telgemeier’s books and Shannon Hale’s Real Friends series, will want to give this series a try. With its adorable characters, great storytelling, and manga artwork, this new series will be enjoyed by fans of the old comics and those who are new to it.
By Mauricio De Sousa
vol 1 ISBN: 9781545802182
vol 2 ISBN: 9781545802168
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)