The Soul Senders are a special breed. Part wizard and part healer, they are charged with a sacred duty. Most of the time, when a creature dies, their spirit moves on to continue the cycle of life. However, sometimes the spirit becomes stuck in its former body. This leads to a curse, which blights nearby vegetation, disturbs the local wildlife, and eventually corrupts those unfortunates who live nearby. The Soul Senders have the power to send these spirits away and cleanse the corruption, though it takes a heavy toll upon them.
Alpi is a novice Soul Sender, embarking on her first journey apart from her parents. Since they are both powerful Soul Senders themselves, the expectations for Alpi are high. Thankfully, though she is apart from her family, she is not alone in her quest. Accompanied by her familiar Perenai, who takes the form of a devout butler, Alpi is determined to prove herself a powerful Soul Sender, despite her age and inexperience.
The first volume of Alpi – The Soul Sender is a wonderful introduction to the world of the title heroine. Many Magical Girl Manga tend to be overly heavy in exposition and grind their stories to a halt whenever the heroine must learn something new about her powers. Alpi is quite different. Apart from the opening text establishing the setting, there is very little in the way of information dumping. Instead, the details of how Alpi’s powers work come about naturally in the story.
For instance, the second chapter centers around Alpi’s efforts to cleanse a curse from a local lake. The curse is caused by a great fish, whose unclean death began to taint the water. Unfortunately, because Alpi’s rituals require her to draw a circle on the ground around the cursed corpse, there is no clear way for her to perform the cleansing spell. This leads to an exciting rush to action, as Alpi enlists the local fisherman to help her build a dock around the curse, though the wood begins to decay almost immediately thanks to the blight. This also showcases Alpi’s cleverness and determination.
While Alpi -The Soul Sender does little to defy genre conventions, it is a fine manga in the same spirit as Cardcaptor Sakura. The artwork by Roma is crisp and clear, with expressive faces and exciting action. This would be a fine starter manga for any parent hoping to get their children interested in comics. It is particularly well suited for those bold girls who are ready to move beyond fairy tales but not quite ready for Pippi Longstocking or Anne of Green Gables.
Titan Manga has rated this volume as being appropriate for all ages. I agree with that assessment, for the most part. There is no overt violence and no sexual content. There is a bit of spooky stuff, with the dark spirits and Alpi’s fearful reactions whenever she is cleansing herself of the curses. The comic is also based around the idea of a holy magic-user, which may be a sticking point for some families. Alpi is an entirely heroic figure, however, and there is nothing in the book that references any specific religion apart from one off-hand mention of a singular god on the first page.
Alpi – The Soul Sender, Vol. 1 By Rona Morrison Titan, 2023 ISBN: 9781787741300
Publisher Age Rating: all ages NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Tween (10-13)
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.
Slime Shop By Kevin Panetta Art by Niki Smith Harper Collins Harper Alley, 2023 ISBN: 9780358446453
Publisher Age Rating: grade 3-7 NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)
A light-hearted graphic novel for intermediate readers squelches onto the scene with the first book of Finder’s Creatures.
Finder, a red-haired frog in 2nd grade, lives in Belly Acre Bog, with her best friends Keeper, a shy turtle and Chopper, a taco-loving beaver. Inspired by her hero, the detective toad Mr. Seymour Warts, she has opened her own detective agency, Finder’s Creatures, and it’s not long before their first case comes along. Finder wakes up one morning to discover that everyone is gone, but her and her friends! They investigate and discover some mysterious green goo, a few feathers, and, eventually, a terrifying monster! While Finder and her friends are tracking down the missing swamp creatures, Seymour Warts ranges farther afield, following the clues of C.R.O.A.K., an evil organization that kidnaps animals. But are they responsible for the missing bog dwellers? Where did the green goo monster come from? And will Chopper and Keeper ever build a trap that works?
The portion of the story that features Finder and her friends is all drawn in hues of green and brown with pink splashes introduced when the Perfectly Pink factory, run by pigs, comes into play. Each animal has their own secondary color as well, with orange hair for Finder, blue shirt and flying water droplets for Chopper, and orange speech bubbles for Keeper that match her orange-ringed eyes. Meanwhile, Seymour Warts’ investigations, with his sidekick Toady, are drawn in black and white, giving the distinct impression of an old-time film and building on the resemblance to Sherlock Holmes. All the art is drawn with sharp angles, geometrical shapes, and many odd perspectives. There are thick black lines, which can sometimes obscure the actual comic art, but the differently-colored speech bubbles is a nice touch to help readers keep track of who is talking
This had a somewhat unexpected ending; from the publisher’s description (and the general tropes of this kind of story) I was expecting Finder to be the one who solved the mystery while Seymour Warts turned out to be all talk, but there turned out to be mysteries enough for everyone to solve! The text is fairly simple and seems to be aimed at a younger audience, but there is a lot of wordplay and references to things like the Sherlock Holmes canon that are unlikely to be picked up by younger readers. This might be a fun addition if you have a lot of younger readers of graphic novels, and especially if you have families who like to read together. Otherwise, if you’re just looking for funny swamp-themed mysteries, stick with Paige Braddock’s STEM-themed Stinky Cecil trilogy.
Bog Gone! Vol. 1 By P. Knuckle Jones Penguin Workshop, 2023 ISBN: 9780593519851
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)
Colleen Madden has created a handful of picture books, but this is her first graphic novel and, although the plot falters in a few places, it’s overall a spooky delight.
Shelley Frankenstein, a little girl with exuberant black curls who generally sports a white lab coat, loves all things spooky and scary; from bad haircuts to creepy noises under the bed. She’s determined to emulate her ancestor and create a truly terrifying monster. After all, she’s got a whole castle and the inspiration of the historic monsters who live in on the grounds, including Frankenstein’s Monster, his Bride, and the Werewolf.
There’s just one problem; her parents, dressed in classic Edwardian garb for a family meal, refuse to allow her out at night to pillage graveyards. They’re more interested in veggie bacon than in her ambitions! With the help of Iggy, her blond-haired, rosy-cheeked little brother, she scours the castle for leftover toys she can use to recreate her ancestor’s fearsome experiments.
Unfortunately, far from being scared, her little schoolmates (dressed in costumes varying from sweaters and leggings to lederhosen) adore her creations. The cronkey! The boagiraffe! Each one is more adorable than before and Shelley is losing her cool when she tries one more time and makes… Cowpiggy. This time, she’s sure she’s discovered the secret to bringing to life a truly terrifying creation.
Unfortunately, Cowpiggy doesn’t live up to her expectations, so she takes her to be trained by the monsters in the apartments beneath the castle. When Cowpiggy emerges, she’s truly fearsome – but is that what Shelley really wants? It will take an encounter with a wise women and her horde of bunnies, a blizzard, and some thoughtful guidance from her parents before Shelley figures out how to continue the legacy of the Frankensteins.
Madden’s art is adorable, with plump-cheeked children, cozy striped sweaters, and hordes of darling bunnies. Readers will giggle at Shelley’s continued failure to make a spooky monster as each creation appears, more adorable and cute than the last. Shelley’s face is emotive, from her diabolical eyebrows, to her sadness as she realizes what it’s really like to be truly scared and alone. Cowpiggy, of course, is adorable, even when she’s being mean, with the body of a pig and the spots and stubby horns of a cow. The udders of the original “Lady Marigold” cow toy neatly disappear in the monster-making process, and when she’s not brainwashed into monstrousness, Cowpiggy bounces around the scene spreading smiles and little hearts everywhere she goes.
There are plenty of callouts from the original story, including Cowpiggy’s exile into the snow, after she follows her creator’s directive and scares the kindergarteners, as well as minor bits of wordplay and humor, like the glowing red eyes of “Creepy Jenny.” The plot does get a bit convoluted towards the end, especially when the old lady and her bunny horde are introduced. The message that nobody likes to be truly scared is confusing, although most kids will easily pick up on how Shelley has been violating boundaries and needs to be more respectful of others’ feelings.
While not perfect, this is a delightful series opener for young readers who enjoy a mildly spooky romp without being really scared. Hand to fans of Franny K. Stein or Junior Monster Scouts and other humorously scary beginning chapter books and graphic novels.
Shelley Frankenstein!: Cowpiggy, Book One By Colleen Madden Top Shelf, 2023 ISBN: 9781603095228
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)
Nonfiction comics, especially informational, how-to guides, have been around for a long time. However, it’s only recently, as the graphic novel format has exploded, that they have begun to diversify into a more narrative format. Many nonfiction titles are now graphic blends, with illustrations, factoids, and cartoons mixed together and this is an interesting example of that style.
The book is arranged in the pattern of the ocean, starting with the Epipelagic, or Sunlight, zone and moving down to the trenches and the Hadalpelagic Zone. Each zone is contained in a chapter, with a few pages for the upper zones and up to twenty pages for the deeper zones. With the chapters, Leigh profiles the creatures that live in each area, noting the depth range of each. The creatures are drawn in cartoon style, with vivid colors, slightly exaggerated shapes and features, and they make jokes and asides in a handful of speech bubbles.
Short sequences of 2-4 panels give information and let the creatures talk directly to the reader. For example, the spread on Sea Angels, a type of sea slug, has a full page showing a larger-than-life sea angel in blue shading to green with bright orange spots. Against the deep blue background of the second page, the information about the sea angel’s hunting of the sea butterfly is illustrated with the sea angel shooting out their crown of tentacles and loudly declaring “Behold me, sea butterflies, and QUIVER WITH FEAR!” The sections of text are included in loose bubble shapes with lighter blue bubbles floating around the area.
The last section of the book deals briefly with specific deep-sea environments like brine pools and adaptations for survival like chemosynthesis. Leigh finishes off the book with an author’s note, suggestions for preventing pollution and learning more about the ocean depths, and an index of all the creatures profiled in the book.
Leigh does an excellent job of illustrated the strange beauty and unique ecosystems of deep-sea creatures in a humorous and accessible way. While this is not, strictly speaking, a traditional graphic narrative, it uses comic elements like panels and speech bubbles to comedic effect, enhancing the collection of informative facts and it will be popular with young readers of many different tastes. I would especially recommend this to fans of Mike Lowery’s Everything Awesome series and readers who are not quite ready for the lengthier and more complex narratives of First Second’s Science Comics.
The Deep!: Wild Life at the Ocean’s Darkest Depths By Lindsey Leigh Penguin Workshop, 2023 ISBN: 9780593521687
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)
Penny’s getting ready to move, but there’s something important she wants to do before she goes. Luc is reluctant to help, but as Penny’s friend agrees to join in. K(aylee) just wants to expand their cryptid knowledge and can’t resist a quest. So the three of them (supervised by Penny’s mom) set out for Lake Bockamixon. Their quest? To find the elusive Bawk-ness monster, Bessie, so Penny can say a final thank-you for saving her life when she was younger.
At first, it seems like the biggest problem will be getting away from Penny’s over-protective mom Ronnie, but things quickly get more exciting when the three friends, along with Bessie and Ronnie, get captured by a notorious cryptid hunter. As they encounter cryptids, villains, and Ronnie’s insistence on “talking things out” with “an adult” the three friends depend on Penny’s kindness and strength, K’s exuberance and knowledge, and Luc’s snarky but efficient preparations in order to survive their dangerous adventure, free the cryptids, and help Penny and her mom clear the air before their move. Along the way, there are brief flashbacks to some of their earlier encounters, including Luc’s initial bullying of Penny and finishing with a casual vignette where Lucy asks the friends to call them Luc going forward.
The raucous humor, boundless enthusiasm, and casual acceptance of indefinite gender expression in this story may remind readers vividly of Lumberjanes, but it’s clearly aimed at a younger audience, especially with a, to my mind, much more concrete plot than the Lumberjanes‘ more fluid narrative. Goetter and Riess are an artistic duo and include a detailed comic of their artistic process at the end of the story, explaining how they work out the plot together, Goetter draws the character and lettering, Riess creates backgrounds and digital art and lettering, and together they produce a finished comic!
The art is colorful and exciting, much like the bouncy characters, with lots of dramatic movement and rich colors. Penny is portrayed as a stocky, strongly-built girl, much like her mom, with chunky hiking boots. She often wears skirts and a bow. Luc, usually shown with a frown, has spiky anime-style brown hair, casual shorts and t-shirts, and an ubiquitous backpack, from which they can produce maps, utility tools, and endless plans. K is Black, the smallest of the three, sporting a white lab coat, green sneakers, goggles, and a maniacal and determined grin.
Alvida, the villain, has a sleek build with snake-like pupils, a hint of fang, and a Cruella deVil style white stripe in her black hair. The myriad of cryptids all have unique designs and looks, but even the slimy ones give the impression of fur and the Bawk-ness Monster is both bird-like and serpentine, with a warm heart under its fluffy feathers. Most of the action takes place in the woods, lake, and Alvida’s creepy lair and the backgrounds are smoothly layered, making the characters and colors pop out at readers.
Penny, her mom, and Alvida are given female pronouns and Alvida’s henchmen are all implied to be male, but K and Luc are not addressed by any specific pronouns.
This delightful romp will be an immediate choice for fans of the duo’s previous book, Dungeon Critters, and anyone who loves humor, cryptids, and a good old-fashioned adventure with determined characters and an evil villain. It’s a strong addition for any library collection, well-suited to elementary school collections, and a great start for a new series.
The Bawk-ness Monster By Sara Goetter, Natalie Riess Jennifer Wharton Macmillan First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250834669
In her first choose-your-own-adventure challenge, Megan was in charge of the school talent show. Readers were able to pick her path and help her make choices that ended in disaster or triumph as she dealt with sick performers, murderous seagulls, and all manner of catastrophes. Now she’s back, exhibiting at the Sunbright Middle School’s science fair, but at least she’s not in charge this time?
Unfortunately for Megan, there’s still a lot of ways thing can go wrong amidst the myriad of possible endings, from being embarrassed in front of her crush, captured by aliens, to facing down her old enemies, the sea gulls! Make the right choice and see her helping her friends win a trophy, impressing her crush, or just making it through the day without hideous embarrassment. Wrong choice? She could end up trapped in the school basement, covered in acne, or just leaving early!
Smiley’s art is the same goofy cartoon style as in the first volume, with thick lines that show stick-figure characters. Megan stands out with her brown bun and big glasses and is joined by friends and enemies from the first book—plump Olivia, who’s presenting an experiment on body fungus, apoplectic Mr. Fisher the vice-principal, who’s determined to make a good showing in front of the science fair judges but can’t make it five minutes without bouncing up and down like the ball he resembles and dripping green and yellow sweat, and introducing new friends and enemies for Megan, like her co-presenter Charlotte and fellow student Ponah. The characters all have one of a few body types, oblong or rounded, and their faces show a limited gamut of emotions, mostly anger, surprise, and disgust.
The first book has been popular in my library and readers who like the choose-your-own-adventure format will be eager for another addition to the series. This one is a little more gag-worthy than the first, with Olivia’s body fungus project, run-ins with a skunk, and several other somewhat nauseating science projects, but it’s also got a wider range of endings, from comical cartoon death, with little x’s for eyes or Megan reduced to a skeleton, to the rather blah endings of leaving early or a successful day, sure to send readers back looking for a more exciting finish!
Although I don’t know any schools that have a science fair anymore, the concept is still familiar to kids and the additional goofiness makes this a little stronger than the first title, although both can be read separately. It’s a silly and fun offering that will appeal to many tween readers and could make for a fun ice-breaker exercise in a class presentation or with a group of tweens at a program.
What Happens Next?, Vol 2: Science Fair Frenzy By Jess Smart Smiley Macmillan First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250772848
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Things in the Basement, written and illustrated by Ben Hatke, is a heroic journey through the depths of a basement on a quest to find a lost sock. Milo is in a new house. Well, the house isn’t new. It is old and filled with mysteries and adventure, and Milo is ready to explore in the shadow of moving boxes. However, while busy with twin infant sisters, Milo’s mother needs help finding a lost pink sock, made by his Tia Maria for his sister Lucy. He has been called for a quest, and heroes must answer the call.
Milo ventures into the basement, reluctantly peering into shadows and around corners, until he finds the sock in the mouth of a rat. When the rat disappears into a wall, Milo must follow. In his quest to find the rat and the sock, Milo uncovers unknown depths to his basement, monsters, mountains of socks, and some friends along the way.
The story is a classic hero’s journey into the underworld from the point of view of a child. It is abundantly clear that Hatke respects that point of view, and I think because of that many children will find themselves in Milo and in the story. The plot follows a child-like logic without being demeaning or using it as a punchline. The levels of the basement underworld unfold in the way pretend play with an adventurous child does, with something akin to the “yes, and…” improvisational structure. Turn the corner, embrace the unknown, and move forward bravely. Above all else, a sock must be found.
I always appreciate stories of children who waste little or no time in confusion when falling into a new magical world. There is no need to put up a pretense that this isn’t the exact type of world a boy like Milo could imagine for his basement. He befriends a large eyeball with tentacles instead of a body and a skull that talks in simple images, because why would he not. They were perfectly friendly, and as we all know, heroes need support on their quests.
Hatke’s illustrations perfectly blend the strange, dark, and unusual with enough whimsy to ease the imaginations of his young readers. Most of the book pages have monotone color palettes ranging from sepias to some blue and green. There are occasional pops of intense color for menacing green ooze and Lucy’s lost pink sock. The palette evokes the feeling of epic adventures. It also gives room for the strange details of each basement level to remain in the background, available for those interested in looking with a closer eye, but without taking attention from the story at hand.
Milo is Latino with brown skin, but overall his illustration lacks detail. He has a mop of tousled hair that obscures his eyes. The absence of great detail leaves room for children who want to see their face on Milo’s. Without eyes, we follow Milo’s emotion through his posture and movements. Hatke also has to be similarly creative with other important side characters, such as the skull and the eye, or a shepherd with a bell for a face. For young readers to have empathy for the strange and unknown, there must be some level of familiarity. Hatke accomplishes this balance of making the strange familiar through the character’s emotions, often without the ability to rely on facial expressions. It is a tightrope to walk as an illustrator, but one that Hatke clearly masters.
Things in the Basement made me smile, laugh, and feel all sorts of warm fuzzy feelings. It includes themes of friendship and kindness, but isn’t overtly didactic, and is funny without mocking. It’s a journey with child-sized epic proportions. I highly recommend it for elementary and other graphic novel collections for young and middle grade readers. I truly think children will love this story, along with those of us adults who appreciate authors who understand childhood.
Things in the Basement By Ben Hatke Macmillan First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250836618
Publisher Age Rating: 6-9 Series ISBNs and Order Related media:
Do we really need another odd-couple easy reader, even if it is a comic? If it’s Gnome and Rat, the answer is yes! Ever since the debut of Arnold Lobel’s classic couple, Frog and Toad, the contrasting friends and roommates has been a popular trope. Elephant and Piggie are the modern classic standard, but it’s an easy form to fit a simple plot and text. Authors and artists have been churning out books like these with varying results, especially along the lines of actually portraying healthy relationships and friendships, and this new offering is delightful and heart-warming.
In a stump in the woods, with snazzy red-and-white spotted mushroom decor, live Gnome and Rat. Together, they have many adventures, most of them centered around Gnome’s hat! Gnome tries to do magic, looks for a temporary replacement for his hat, and then a permanent replacement, all with the quiet, gently amused support of Rat. Along the way they meet other creatures, including a duck named Jerry, a possum known as the “Hat Man”, two magic pink rabbits, and other friends. The text is minimal, with many panels almost completely wordless, but it will need a reader fairly fluent in both textual and visual literacy to decode this story. There are several different fonts used and although the text is brief, there are subtle cues in the characters’ faces that need to be read along with the dialogue.
Gnome is a roly-poly little creature, with a snowy white beard that almost completely hides him and, of course, a bright red, pointed hat! Rat is sleek and elegant in gray, with darker gray patches, and a thin curl of a tail, donning a snazzy yellow scarf and stylish glasses when needed. Gnome bounces off the page with exuberance, while Rat quietly follows along, calming him down as necessary and always there when needed. But this isn’t a one-sided friendship; Rat clearly loves their goofy companion and enjoys Gnome’s antics, comforting him when he’s sad and helping him out when he encounters various hat-related disasters. Gnome’s face pops with larger-than-life emotions—sad, happy, inspired, and mischievous—while Rat’s straight-faced, more subtle humor shines through in their actions and words. The background is a brightly colored forest, with snow-capped mountains, green, flowering meadows, sparkling blue ponds, and lush forests.
This gently humorous offering is threaded with the soft, comforting feeling of a warm hug. Rat and Gnome both pay attention to each other’s needs and feelings, and exhibit a caring, sweet friendship between two very different personalities. Don’t be surprised if readers demand their own gnome-hat to try out some shenanigans on their own, or want to hear this comforting story over and over again.
Gnome and Rat By Lauren Stohler Knopf, 2023 ISBN: 9780593487822
Publisher Age Rating: 6-9 years NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)
I don’t know if it’s because of the volume of his output, but Franco (Franco Aureliani) shows a wide range of quality in his writing. I was disappointed by the last comic of his that I read and reviewed, but enjoyed this gentle fantasy adventure and think it will find a ready audience.
The story opens with red-haired Fae, wearing a vaguely medieval-style brown dress, sitting sadly alone under the moon. She goes to bed and has nightmares of her mother’s mysterious disappearance and wakes to sit sadly at the table and stare at her breakfast. Percival, a small white bunny with vine-like markings on his head and back, appears and tries to comfort her, encouraging her to remember her mother, hold on to her memories, but also to let go and move on. Fae mulls over his words and eventually decides to do something concrete to remember her mother and to call her attention, wherever she is; she takes the moon out of the sky.
Fae’s actions set in train a a dark series of events, from rampaging rat hordes to fleeing villagers. In a startling twist she learns some dangerous secrets, including discovering her own inner power and the truth behind her mother’s disappearance. There is a happy and satisfying ending, despite the constant perilous situations throughout the book, and charming art throughout. The Satruns’ colorful art has lots of curves and lines including delicate flowers that bloom under the moon, sleek dragon-like creatures, and cute and cuddly mice. These contrast with the pointed noses, scowls, and dark menace of the rat horde. Lots of blooming, growing, and expanding circles show magical transformations, and the whole story is alternately flooded with shadows or gently shining with the moon’s bright light.
There are some odd little moments, like Fae’s sudden change from the dress she wore throughout the story to a Victorian-style suit on the last page, and a few holes in the story as well as some awkward phrasing. Still, young readers looking for a fantasy adventure that doesn’t end on a cliffhanger will be satisfied with the pretty art and fast-moving story line. There’s a hint of sequels at the end, but not enough that the story feels unfinished, and some gentle reminders throughout about not judging by appearances.
Young readers who aren’t ready for Amulet and enjoy the Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly and Guardians of Horsa will be the ideal audience for this story and will eagerly snatch it up.
Fae and the Moon By Franco Aureliani Art by Catherine Satrun, Sarah Satrun Publisher: Yellow Jacket, 2023 ISBN: 9781499813289