Karen Brewer is almost seven and enjoys living with her two families… most of the time. She especially likes going with her brother Andrew to visit her dad and his big family, including her step-sister Kristy. But there’s just one problem with her dad’s house—a witch lives next door! Nobody believes Karen, but with her best friend Hannie, she’s determined to reveal Morbidda Destiny’s evil ways and save her neighborhood! Unfortunately, she might have to break a few rules to do it.
Dedicated Baby-Sitters Club fans will be excited to see this new adaptation of the Baby-Sitters Little Sister spin-off, but of course, no adaptation is ever perfect. There is already some unhappy buzz about the new series not being exactly like the originals. I completely missed the Baby-Sitters Club series growing up, so I came to this fresh, with no preconceived feelings. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, fans of Raina Telgemeier’s adaptations and the continuations by others will be lining up to grab this off the shelf. On the other hand, I think they may be disappointed. It’s aimed at a very young audience and that’s my main worry. I have a hard time seeing any six or seven year old today playing spying games or imagining a neighbor is a witch. There’s very little about the family dynamics in the story, besides the introduction when Karen explains her two families, and some interactions with Kristy who both irritates and comforts Karen.
The galley I reviewed was in black and white, but several pages were in the full color of the final edition. Farina has stuck with the bright colors and clean lines of the Raina Telgemeier-established Baby-Sitters Club adaptations, but adds her own twist and shows the younger ages of the protagonists in several ways. Karen and her friends and siblings closest to her in age are shown with over-sized heads and big eyes, giving them a much younger appearance. The perspective is also lower, with adults, buildings, and even the hedges looming over Karen and her friends. Karen has a perky blonde ponytail and thick black eyebrows, slapped over her hair, which are responsible for showing most of her emotions. Her best friend Hannie is black, with her hair in two puffs and often sports a generally worried expression as she follows Karen into trouble.
After the first excitement, this is unlikely to appeal to the average middle grade reader of realistic graphic novels, but younger readers who are eager to pick up Smile and similar titles, but whose caregivers want them to wait to be a little older, may be satisfied with this title. It’s overall an appealing story, and while readers themselves probably aren’t sneaking around their neighborhood making up spells and spying on old ladies in their gardens, they might enjoy Karen’s bout of rule-breaking and sympathize with the resulting consequences.
By Katy Farina, Ann M. Martin
Art by Katy Farina
Publisher Age Rating: Grades 2-3