Greta, a particularly unfriendly and uncooperative child, has turned away a string of pets that have been sent to cheer her up. Her parents are at their wits end trying to deal with her and haven’t slept in three days. Finally, a small tortoise named Nobody, the last available pet at the pet rental, is sent to her home.

“Nobody” is unfazed by Greta’s rude behavior and can dish out insults just as well as Greta can. His no-nonsense approach to Greta is disarming enough that she asks him to stay and opens up about how the other kids are mean to her at school and she feels different because she does not look like her adoptive parents.

Nobody takes Greta on various expeditions to unusual lands via his magical shell. He also helps her make a friendship with Gabby, another adopted child from her school, who has his own problems fitting in. Nobody shows the children they can fit in anywhere by literally getting them to fit into seemingly impossible spaces and figuratively helping them overcome their struggles getting along with other children. Together, Nobody, Greta, and Gabby help Friendlytown, which has become unfriendly. As the town is restored to its normal friendly self, Greta’s friendship with Gabby is cemented, and her once chaotic home becomes a harmonious place.

The book is both a Fairytale and an allegory in the vein of The Phantom Tollbooth, or Alice in Wonderland, with wordplay such as the name of the guide Nobody conveying part of the meaning. Other wordplay is used as the theme of “fitting in” is shown both literally and figuratively, too. Repeated throughout the story is the dichotomy between kindness and meanness, and the transformation of Friendlytown mirrors Greta’s own transformation. The fantasy worlds the characters visit are both enchanting and instructive to Greta, and to readers alike. The tale is simple enough for young middle grade readers to comprehend, yet complex enough for adults to enjoy pondering the symbolism and meaning.

The illustrations are fully-colored in warm, natural tones, and the facial features of the characters are particularly expressive. Characters show emotion and personality through light and shadow, as well as eyes and mouth. Panels are rectangular with varying numbers per page. The world from which Greta originates bears a resemblance to our own reality, yet has the appearance of otherness, as well. The clothing on all of the characters would fit better in the 40s or 50s. Even a gang of squirrels wears matching argyle sweater vests. The fantasy worlds, while different from Greta’s world in their inhabitants, are drawn in the same style and detail. The story is told almost entirely in speech bubbles, with little description apart from the spoken words, so the illustrations play a crucial role in the reader’s ability to comprehend the story.

Nobody Likes You, Greta Grump is a clever and winsome fable. The message about the importance of kindness is simple but profound. Greta learns that Nobody (the tortoise) does indeed like her, and she needs to show kindness to others in order to bring out their kindness in return. She learns that she can have friends if she learns to treat them nicely. However, she also sees that her parents have loved her unconditionally all along, even when she was being a grump. This graphic novel will appeal to young fans of fantasy and readers who are a bit more thoughtful in their graphic novel reading choices. With its strong message and aesthetic beauty, it will make an excellent addition to youth and school graphic novel collections.

Nobody Likes You Greta Grump Vol.
By Cathy Malkasian
Fantagraphics, 2021
ISBN: 9781683964056

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)

  • Kelly

    | She/Her Library Information Specialist, South Park Elementary School


    Kelly Jahng has studied English, history, and French, and taught middle school for sixteen years.She earned a masters in education along the way before changing hats and earning her MLIS at San Jose State University.She now works as the Library Information Specialist at South Park Elementary School in Deerfield, IL.She loves to collaborate with teachers in the school learning commons and to help students create in the makerspace.In her spare time, she loves to travel, enjoy theatre, read and review youth and YA literature, and write the occasional post for various blogs.

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