There are plenty of media-related graphic novels, but Harper Alley seems to have cornered the market on unique properties, mostly YouTube related. This graphic novel combines a popular toy, slime, with a media personality, Karina Garcia, to create a fluffy but fun story.
Sophie, her big sister Bailey, and their best friend Jayden run their own slime business, BSJ Slime, and they’re very successful. Except that Bailey and Jayden have been butting heads and they’re not the only ones who aren’t getting along! When the three leave their workshop after creating a special slime for a contest put on by Aymee’s Slime Emporium, the slimes come to life!
Each slime has a name and a distinct personality. They’re shown as fist-sized blobs with enough definition and detail, as well as distinct colors, to tell them apart. Each falls into a male or female binary, with a certain amount of stereotyping—for example, Polly, the popular, glittery pink slime is “female” and Boris, the old, grumpy green slime who becomes the villain, is “male”.
Polly is all set for another fun day of play when Boris warns them all that the disappearing slimes are being destroyed. Polly investigates and sees Boris eat Skip, a crunchy yellow slime! But when Skip shows back up, even though he’s acting strange, Polly gets downvoted in favor of listening to Boris’ warnings and threats. When it becomes clear the BSJ slime shop—and all the slimes—are in danger, Polly and her friends sneak out to find help and go on a wild adventure through the neighborhood, meeting new friends and learning valuable lessons along the way.
Happily, all ends well and not only the slimes but the three human friends work through their differences and learn to respect each other and value each person’s contribution. The story ends with a slime party, lots of unique slime recipes and bases, and an illustrated cast of the slime and human characters.
The color palette is mostly pastels, with a few darker pinks and turquoise slimes splashing extra color across the pages. There’s not a lot of plot, but the cute slimes stretching, bouncing, and squeezing across the pages make for an amusing narrative. Sophia and Bailey appear to be half-siblings from a casual mention of different dads and both have brown skin and hair. Bailey has a full figure and comfortably wears shorts and tank tops while Sophia is skinnier and sports tattered, rolled up jeans and a t-shirt. Jayden is Black, with short hair and glasses and wears long shorts and a maroon hoodie. There is one typo on page 50.
There is an underlying message of working together and building friendships, but Bailey and Jayden’s arguments are resolved off-screen and they simply apologize and get back to work when they see each other after the slimes’ adventures. Polly has a lot of toxic views of popularity and friendship, but even when she lashes out at her friends near the end, they all still help her and she apologizes and learns to work with them. However, the message is really secondary to the wish-fulfillment of all the slime you could ever want! Plus, tons of cute slimes, silly jokes, and a lighthearted, amusing adventure. If you have young readers who are still deeply invested in making and playing with slimes, or if you have fans of Karina Garcia (who appears in the book thinly disguised as the Aymee of the Slime Emporium), this is sure to fly off your shelves.
By Kevin Panetta
Art by Niki Smith
Harper Collins Harper Alley, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: grade 3-7
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)