A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar.

SÉANCE TEA PARTY

As a girl struggles to navigate adolescence, she finds support from an unlikely source.

In this graphic novel, 12-year-old Lora Xi finds herself increasingly isolated. While her best friend and her classmates seem obsessed with parties, boys, and texting, her interests have remained fixed on witches, ghosts, and nostalgic activities of childhood. While throwing herself a séance tea party in the attic, she discovers a ghost, a girl about her age, named Alexa. The two become fast friends, with Alexa gently prodding Lora to reach out to peers and slowly engage in more social events. The energetic, flowing graphics embellished with colorful details reveal complex narratives for both characters. With the help of some old friends, Alexa eventually discovers more about her long-forgotten past, having lived in the same town 50 years prior. Lora finds the courage to participate in more social events while staying authentic. But the two friends gradually find their goals diverging, which leads to an emotional climax. While this is Yee’s middle-grade debut, she is a veteran of comic books, and it shows. She artfully balances complex character arcs and suspense while bringing a touch of fantasy and wonder without overcrowding the plot. Lora is of Chinese descent, and Alexa is White; Lora’s middle-class North American community is vibrantly diverse.

A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar. (author's note) (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12532-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart.

THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY

At home in Haiti, 10-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jean loves the rain, scary stories, beating the boys in mango-eating contests, and her family, most of all.

When her parents’ paperwork issues mean she must immigrate to the United States alone, every heavenly thing she believes about America can’t outweigh the sense of dread she feels in leaving everything she knows behind. A preternaturally sensitive child, Gabrielle feels responsible for not only her own success, but her whole family’s, so the stakes of moving in with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Brooklyn are high—even before Lady Lydia, a witch, tries to steal her essence. Lydia makes her an offer she can’t refuse: achieving assimilation. Arnold skillfully fuses distinct immigrant experiences with the supernatural to express a universally felt desire for belonging. Gabrielle desperately wants to fit in despite the xenophobia she experiences every day and despite making new, accepting friends in Mexican American Carmen and Rocky the talking rat-rabbit. But in trying to change herself, Gabrielle risks giving Lydia the power to conquer Brooklyn. Gabrielle is a charming narrator, and of course, good guy (girl) magic wins out in the end, but the threat to immigrant lives and identities is presented poignantly nonetheless in this richly imaginative origin story of one Haitian American girl that offers a fantastical take on immigrant narratives.

Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-27275-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A fun, fantastical romp.

TIDESONG

A legacy of magic binds two aspiring hopefuls from different worlds together.

Inspired in part by East Asian cultures, this graphic novel’s prologue reveals that a dragon draws rebuke from her family when she leaves the sea to be with her love, a fisherman. Now known as the Wu clan, their descendants earn respect from the dragons when they combine their collective magic and repel a powerful hurricane the dragons sent to destroy the kingdom. From then on, the dragons promise to always answer the call of the Wu family. In the present day, 12-year-old Sophie Wu, an aspiring witch, is determined to perfect her spells for her audition to the Royal Magic Academy. She travels to stay with her young aunt, Sage, a recent Academy graduate, and her cantankerous great-aunt in Dragon Bay Harbor Town to learn from them. However, her great-aunt’s incessant negativity about her talents—which she hopes to disprove—and her own insecurities cause Sophie to lose control of a spell. A dragon named Lir becomes stuck in human form with no memories of what came before. A diplomatic conflict ensues that threatens the peace between dragons and humans unless Sophie and Lir are able to untangle their intertwined magic. Reminiscent of Kiki’s Delivery Service, the colorful panels are filled with movement, and the manga-style art pops. Characters have skin tones ranging from light to mid-brown and hair in varying shades of brown.

A fun, fantastical romp. (author’s note) (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-295579-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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