Oscar Seeks a Friend by Pawel Pawlak (9781911373827)
Oscar is a little skeleton who has lost a tooth. He thinks he looks entirely dreadful without it and wonders if he will ever find someone to play with. So when he sees a little girl burying a tooth, he asks her for it. But she is burying the tooth in order to have a wish come true. Then she takes another look at Oscar and starts to laugh. She agrees to give him the tooth if he helps her find a friend. The two head off, and she shows Oscar all of the lovely things she would show a friend, including rainbows, meadows, and the seaside. Oscar then brings her into his world and shows her parks and libraries and sleeping butterflies. The two realize at the end of the day together that they both got what they wished for, tooth or no tooth.
This Polish import is a treat just right for Halloween with its skeleton main character. Oscar is an entirely human skeleton with worries about making friends. The book plays against Oscar being a skeleton nicely as the little human girl isn’t scared of him for even a moment. There’s something very endearing about him and the entire book focuses on connections rather than frights.
The illustrations are what make this book special. Done in paper collage with 3D elements, the images are tactile and full of texture. The worlds of each of the characters is distinct in color and content. Oscar’s is dark with pops of color and the human world is bright and filled with sun, rain and rainbows. The play of the two against one another is visually gorgeous on the page.
Charming rather than scary, this is a autumn treat. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner (9781534431454)
Moth has always loved everything to do with magic and witches. So when Halloween comes, she dresses up as a witch. That does nothing but encourage some school bullies who tease her in the hall in front of the new kid in town. But something strange happens and Moth’s hands start to glow. It turns out that Moth comes from a family of witches, something her mother had never shared with her. Now it all makes sense why Moth has felt so different from everyone else and struggled to make friends. As Moth learns more about her family and the secret separate magic land her grandmother helped create and still lives in, Moth’s powers grow. She meets a talking cat, makes her first real friend, and then discovers that while witches are real so are those who hunt them!
Steinkellner’s debut graphic novel for youth is a delightful mix of diversity and magic. While comparisons can be made with other teen witches, this book stands entirely on its own. Part of that distinction comes from the unique world that the town’s witch elders created for safety. It is a world of floating islands, crystalline colors and flowing robes. It contrasts dynamically with the world of middle school. Moth is the one who brings both worlds together as her magic begins to take form.
The characters in this graphic novel really make the book special. Moth moves far beyond middle-school misfit and is a friendly, funny protagonist with a talking cat who is brave and conflicted. Her mother too is complicated in all the best ways.
A great middle-grade graphic novel that is full of magic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Aladdin.