Goodreads: Malice in Ovenland
Series: Malice in Ovenland Vol. 1
Lily Brown is expecting to spend the weekend completing the list of chores her mother left–but then she finds a tunnel leading from the back of the oven to a strange new world. Who are the Oven Frites? And why do they think Lily’s responsible for their recent grease drought? Can Lily escape their prison and find her way home?
The clever play on the title of Alice in Wonderland suggests that Micheline, much like Suzanne Collins in her Gregor the Overlander series, is rethinking children’s fantasy so it can star protagonists from the city. And, of course, Hess is also featuring a girl who looks like many young readers, but who may not often appear in literature–a girl with brown skin, frizzy hair, and glasses. Lily Brown is the fantasy heroine many have been waiting for. Adventures aren’t just for Alice anymore!
It’s pretty cool that Lily can find adventure right in her own kitchen. Unfortunately, however, though the characters are engaging, the artwork delightful, and the plot full of action, the premise is also…a little heavy-handed. The story revolves around the anger of the Oven Frites when they learn no grease drips from the Browns’ oven anymore because Lily’s mom is cooking healthier meals. But the Oven Frites don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables. They want their fried, fatty foods back!
If you can get past the healthy eating message, the book is quite delightful. There is some good material in here involving a haunted prison cell, a trio of elite Oven Frite rangers, and a charming traitor to the Oven Frites. They may be kind of standard elements, but they work. And sometimes a solid fantasy is all you really need.
[As an aside, Micheline Hess has also appeared on some panels and spoken about her art and Black women in comics. Search her name and you can find her speaking at the Schomburg Center, with Black Enterprise, etc.]