Review: The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

51hz6icclil-_sx329_bo1204203200_“Women and men  have different types of magic,” says 11-year-old Aster’s mother early on in Molly Knox Ostertag’s The Witch Boy, a graphic novel that mixes fantasy, family and identity. Everyone in Aster’s family is born with magic: the boys grow up to be shapeshifters, and the girls grow up to be witches. But shapeshifting doesn’t come easy to Aster. In fact, he finds himself drawn to the girls’ witchery sessions, taking notes and learning a type of magic forbidden to boys like him. He is an outcast, who constantly feels like he does not belong, unable to be his true self. As such, his only friend is Charlie, a black girl from the non-magical side of town, who is accepting of Aster’s propensity for witchcraft, and might be his only ally when a dark force starts abducting the boys.

The Witch Boy is a delight. Ostertag’s is an unabashed parable for gender conformity, pitched at young readers aged 8-12. But the importance of its message aside, it’s just a darn fun fantasy romp, packed with likeable, diverse characters, and illustrated buoyantly and colourfully. Fans of Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels will love this.

ISBN: 9781338089516
Format: Paperback
Imprint: Graphix
Publisher: Graphix
Publish Date: 31-Oct-2017
Country of Publication: United States

Review: Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

9780545540629Raina Telgemeier continues her exploration of tween and teenage social and family life in her heartfelt graphic novel Ghosts, which adds a twist of the supernatural to proceedings.

Catrina and her mixed family (Latino/white) have moved from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast in the hopes that the cooler climate will help with her younger sister Maya’s cystic fibrosis. Cat isn’t happy with the relocation – is moody throughout the opening pages – while Maya’s elation is both heartening and heartbreaking; her obvious joy for life, and desire to explore and go on adventures, is contradicted by her degenerative condition.

When the girls meet their neighbour, Carlos, who is Bahía de la Luna’s resident “ghost tour” guide, he explains that the town is filled with spirits, who feed off cool winds. With the Day of the Dead approaching, spiritual activity is at an all-time high; and while the prospect of seeing ghosts excites young Maya, it terrifies Cat, who must combat her fear of the unknown to protect her sister.

Ghost’s best, and most poignant moments, feature Maya being treated for her cystic fibrosis. The scene where Maya gleefully asks if she can shake her can of nutritional supplement is especially heartbreaking; so too her forced seclusion from Halloween festivities. Raina Telgemeier deftly balances the book’s various themes, from the exploration of Mexican-American family life, Maya’s illness, the ancient “Day of the Dead” tradition, and Catrina’s desperate struggle to form new friendships in a new town. Her illustrative style is a pure joy to behold; cartoony, yet incredibly expressive. From a visual standpoint, this is undoubtedly the best work we’ve seen. Impossibly, Telgemeier improves with each successive work.

Background material includes some process material, which the wannabe-creator in me finds incredibly fascinating, but of particular interest, especially to younger readers, is her synopsis on the graphic novel’s key themes.

While I don’t think Ghosts had the same impact on me as, say, Drama – I’m far more of a sucker for High School drama tales involving the complex inner-workings of teenage relationships – there’s no question, Telgemeier’s latest is a work of the highest quality. She has reached that highest echelon of creator: her work demands immediate reading upon publication.

ISBN: 9780545540629
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 256
Imprint: Graphix
Publisher: Graphix
Publish Date: 13-Sep-2016
Country of Publication: United States