Intrepid young Maddy encounters goblins, flying whales, and allies ranging from a friendly vampire bat to a pair of “cloud cartographers” in this kickoff chapter.
It’s bad enough that her mild-mannered parents have been transformed into kangaroo rats by the fearsome Thimblewitch—when they’re kidnapped by spider goblins, along with her beloved floating spadefoot toad, Ralph, there’s nothing for it but to set off to the rescue. Traveling with two chance-met balloonist mapmakers, Maddy is amazed to discover that there’s a whole unsuspected world in and above the clouds. But more surprises await: Though Orchard draws both the witch and the goblins with sharp teeth and menacing red eyes, when Maddy tracks her down, the witch turns out to be a well-meaning tinkerer whose magic has gone awry. Moreover, the goblins are skittish but not hostile creatures desperate to replace the stolen power source that keeps their smog-belching city afloat. In return for Ralph and having her parents restored to their original forms, Maddy flies off into future episodes to recover the goblins’ magic. The tale is a stream of imaginative twists and aerial wonders, flowing along easily in a mix of full-page scenes and large sequential panels of lucidly drawn action and pithy dialogue.
A sweet-mannered debut with plenty of lift, despite the abrupt and wide-open ending. (Graphic fantasy. 8-10)