This collection of two adventures starts with what appears to be a riff on the Asian folktale of Momotaro, or the child found in a peach. It opens with a group of black-haired village boys laughing at brown-haired Peach when she tries to tell them her origin story. Her father reminds her that the villagers have always harassed her because she insists on telling her story, then sends her out to find a new life for herself.

After some initial fears and struggles, Peach encounters a band of warriors and joins them in traveling to the Isle of Monsters, who have been accused of looting the surrounding villages. A surprising turn of events resolves the mystery of the thefts and Peach continues her journey with more skills and the impulse to prove herself. Her next adventure happens in a jungle, “Months Later” where she rescues a caged monkey and other wildlife and is pursued by a white man in safari gear and two “natives” with dark skin, feather crayons, and facial markings. She escapes with the monkey, which seems to have magical abilities, only to be captured by pirates, led by an androgynous captain who eventually joins her in returning to the Isle of Monsters and the real villain. The story ends with a happily-ever-after for Peach, who has found her earlier friend and is now ready to fall in love, although she still wants to have adventures.

The art is similar to Franco’s previous work, with a slick digital finish and chibi-style cartoon characters who sport large, lustrous eyes in the manga style. The monsters are big, bulky figures with tusks and bright colors, much like the range of body types of the pirates, while Peach, her big head and enthusiastic mannerisms popping up on every page, is joined by a group of dark-haired, light-skinned heroes who are all very similar in appearance. Purple, green, and pink hues predominate, but most of the landscape has the same vaguely jungle-like appearance. Peach supposedly grows and matures throughout the story, going from a child leaving home on the first page, to an abrupt romantic ending on the last page, but the only change in her appearance is her hair cut, which she cuts early in the story in a “I’ll show them all” scene. The art is blurred in several places, at some points seeming to be a device to show a flashback, in others it appears to be a printing or production error.

There are multiple issues in this stereotyped adventure. The most noticeable are the almost constant typos, grammatical errors, and clunky dialogue which appears not to have been either edited or proofread. The story itself is a confusing mix of abrupt twists and turns, partially-explained plot points, and uneven pacing. Stereotypes abound, both in the art and character descriptions, and the sudden introduction of romance at the end finishes off a confusing, poorly written, and unsatisfying story. This might have found an audience ten or more years ago, when there were fewer comic options for young readers, but with the plethora of well-written and illustrated creations available now there is no reason to purchase this for a school or public library.

Peach and the Isle of Monsters 
By Franco Aureliani
Art by Agnes Garbowska
Action Lab, 2022
ISBN: 9781632291721

Publisher Age Rating: grades 4-7

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library

    Reviewer

    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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