Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse

Information

Goodreads: Witches of Brooklyn
Series: Witches of Brooklyn #1
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

After her mother’s death, Effie goes to live with her aunts in Brooklyn. But they’re a little weird. Could it be they are really witches? And, if they are, could Effie be one, too?

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Review

Witches of Brooklyn is a delightful middle grade graphic novel about a young girl discovering that her aunts may actually be witches! When her mother dies, Effie goes to live with her family she never knew. They’re definitely a bit weird, but she never suspects that their jobs as herbalists and acupuncturists are actually a way to disguise the fact that they have magic powers! But then someone shows up on their doorstep, apparently having been cursed, and Effie’s aunts may not have the solution. Witches of Brooklyn combines the elements of a coming-of-age tale with a bit of magic to create a tale sure to enthrall readers from the start.

One of the great strengths of Witches of Brooklyn is the characters. Some of them may be considered a bit odd, but the book treats each one with dignity and respect. There is room for everyone in Effie’s world and, though the characters may have disagreements, these are never based upon how a character dresses or looks, or what they enjoy. Even the one character who acts like an entitled snob is taken seriously by the others and treated kindly, something which ultimately helps her to learn and grow. I loved how welcoming Effie’s friends and family are! It made me wish I could visit her world.

The illustrations, too, drew me in. They are perfect for the story, having a kid-friendly feeling to them, but also utilizing a color palette that suggests magic and mystery, without being too scary. Illustrations are a large part of what will make me decide to pick up a graphic novel. These did the job of attracting me to the book, and then keeping me glued to the pages.

Finally, the plot kept me engaged. Like Effie, I wanted to figure out what her aunts were all about. And then I became interested in their mystery. Why can’t they figure out how to lift the curse? Who put it there? Will this person be a friend or a foe? Combined with this sense of drama, however, is a sense of whimsy. There’s a talking suit of armor who acts as a librarian. There’s the character who keeps baking for everyone, often with comedic timing. And there’s the babysitter who has unusual fashion sense, but who clearly has a big heart. These light moments balanced out the little bit of darkness that could have stemmed from the idea of someone being cursed, keeping the book more magical than scary.

Witches of Brooklyn is only the first book in a series, but it is the perfect book to get readers hooked! I know I’ll be keeping my eyes out for the sequel.

4 stars

10 Graphic Novels Featuring Ghosts, Witches, and More to Get You in the Mood for Halloween

Graphic Novels for Halloween

Looking for the perfect fall read to get you in the mood for Halloween? Check out these middle grade and young adult graphic novels featuring ghosts, witches, and more!

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The Witches: The Graphic Novel by Roald Dahl, Adapted and Illustrated by Penelope Bagieu

The Witches Graphic Novel Cover

Witches despise nothing more than children, and they will do everything in their power to eradicate every last one from England! When an eight-year-old boy meets the Grand High Witch and learns of her evil plot, it is up to him and his grandmother, along with a new friend, to save the children. A graphic novel adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic novel.

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Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Snapdragon

The neighborhood kids say the old lady down the way is a witch who eats roadkill. But Snap knows better. Jacks collects roadkill to dry their bones and sell the skeletons online. And, now, Snap is helping. But Jacks possesses more power than she initially lets on. Could it be Jacks really is a witch?

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The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

In Aster’s family, girls grow up to be witches and boys grow up to be shapeshifters.  But Aster wants to be a witch, too, even if  he has to keep spying on the girls’ lessons.  Then the boys starts disappearing.  Can Aster help find them with his witch powers?

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Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries

Witchy Cover

In Hyalin, the length of one’s hair determines the strength of their power as a witch. But witches with hair too long are burned as enemies of the kingdom. Nyneve’s father was killed because of his fair. Now Nyneve fears the same. When the Witch Guard comes recruiting, Nyneve must decide if she will serve the kingdom that burned her father, or if she will risk her life for freedom.

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Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

Pumpkinheads

Deja and Josiah are best friends once a year when they both work at the local pumpkin patch.  But now it’s their last day of the season and their last day on the job–both are heading off to college.  Deja wants Josiah to seize the day and finally talk to the girl he’s been crushing on for years.  And she’s on her own mission to eat every autumn snack available at the patch.

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The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

The Okay Witch

When thirteen-year-old Moth Hush discovers that she comes from a line of witches, she is ecstatic.  But her mom fears the town’s tradition of witch hunting and refuses to teach Moth how to use her powers.  Can Moth prove that things have changed?  Or is she better off hiding her magic from the world?

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Sheets by Emma Thummler

Thirteen-year-old Marjorie Glatt’s world fell apart the day her mother died. Now, her father can barely leave his room, and Marjorie is left to run the family laundry business by herself. And the detestable Mr. Saubertuck won’t stop sniffing around, trying to sabotage the business so he can have the property.

Wendell is a ghost who cannot accept his own death. He runs away to the land of the living, trying to find himself. When he meets Marjorie, however, his presence might mean the end of the laundry for good.

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All My Friends Are Ghosts by S. M. Vidaurri and Hannah Krieger

All My Friends Are Ghosts

Effie feels like a ghost. She is no longer interested in school and she’s stopped trying. And no one seems to care. Then she meets a real ghost in the woods. The spirits need her help. But does she have the confidence to succeed in her new mission?

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Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Mooncakes Cover

There is a demon loose in the forest, and werewolf Tam wants to stop it, before it uses their magic against them.  First, however, Tam will need to team up with their girlhood crush, a witch named Nova.

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Little Witch Academia by Yoh Yoshinari, Keisuke Sato

Little Witch Academia Manga

Atsuko “Akko” Kagari has always dreamed of becoming a witch like her idol Shiny Chariot, and now she’s going to attend Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy!  But she comes from  a non-magic family and she’s going to have to prove herself to the other witches.

Dark One (Volume 1) by Brandon Sanderson

Dark One

Information

Goodreads: Dark One
Series: Dark One #1
Source: Purchased
Published: August 17, 2020

Official Summary

Paul Tanasin is a young man haunted by visions of a dark and fantastic world―visions he initially believes are hallucinations. But when he discovers they are prophecies from Mirandus, a world in which he’s destined to become a fearsome destroyer, he’ll have to embrace the fear, rise up as the Dark One, and shatter everything. Dark One examines the dual roles we often take on in life—the ability to be a savior as well as a destroyer.

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Review

There’s some difficulty inherent in reviewing the first volume of a graphic novel because the story isn’t finished, and it feels less like reviewing the first book in a series and more like attempting to review just the first quarter of a single book. However, from what I’ve seen of Dark One so far, it’s an intriguing story about good vs. evil and free will vs. destiny.

The book initially caught my attention because its protagonist is the Dark One, the villain, the powerful being everyone fears; I wanted to see what the world is like through his eyes, how he approaches his destiny. The interesting thing is that “destiny” is part of the struggle. In the world of Mirandus, everyone believes in the Narrative, which plays out every generation: a Dark One Rises, a Destined One ascends to oppose him, war reigns and people die, but ultimately the Light wins. Paul’s (the Dark One’s) problem is whether becoming the Dark One is something to be embraced. Does the Narrative “need” a Dark One? Should he enter the Narrative and give it what it wants? Or should he try something else? (And, frankly, at seventeen years old, he hardly knows what he wants sometimes.)

Personally, I’m lukewarm about stories about Story or Narrative or whatever the author wants to call it. I get that such books are likely inspired by real world questions about, say, the existence of God or a divine will and preordination vs. human free will, but it the premise always seems awkward to stuff into a book. What is the Narrative? Where does it come from? Why can’t people escape it? Should they want to or not? I don’t know that Sanderson’s take on this idea is wholly original or more appealing to me than other ones I’ve seen–but, again, the real problem is that this is only Volume One, so I actually have no idea how the whole thing plays out. Sanderson usually can surprise me with thoughtful questions and clever plot twists, so I’m hoping for one down the line here.

Although I would say “character motivations” and how they approach the Narrative is one of the focuses of the book, I do wish I’d gotten a more in-depth read on Paul and exactly who he is. The book does try to give readers insight and some background, and I do think that the graphic novel form might be a bit of a barrier here, but I didn’t understand some of Paul’s choices as clearly as I’d wished. Hopefully this is something that is also expanded upon in future installments.

I did enjoy Dark One, and I’d like to read more, but I also feel as if I’m floundering a bit here and haven’t quite gotten enough of the story to latch onto in order to understand it. If you’re interested in this story, perhaps wait until Volume Two is released to start reading!

Briana
3 Stars

Consent (for Kids!) by Rachel Brian

Consent (for Kids!) by Rachel Brian Book Cover

Information

Goodreads: Consent (for Kids!)
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: January 2020

Summary

A graphic novel introduction to the topic of consent, told through kid-friendly scenarios and illustrations.

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Review

Consent (for Kids!) by Rachel Brian is an incredibly accessible introduction to the concept of consent for both children and adults. It covers the basics of consent, discussing boundaries, bodily autonomy, trust, different relationships, changing boundaries, and, importantly, the need to reflect not only on whether you are in healthy relationships with people who respect your boundaries, but also whether you are the type of person who respects others’ boundaries. The book is a bite-sized introduction that manages to hit all the key points with clarity and insight, as well as a great deal of humor.

What I really love about this book is how accessible it is. The cartoony illustrations are inviting and kid-friendly, but so are the scenarios Brian presents. For example, Brian explains consent as “like being the ruler of your own country. Population: YOU” and goes on to illustrate things like scenarios you may be comfortable with (sharing fries with a friend) or not comfortable with (sharing your friend’s half-eaten fries). Relationship boundaries are illustrated by acquiring a badger as a pet– a scratching, violent badger= a situation where boundaries have to change! And she explains that clothes do not equal consent with an illustration of a person in a bathing suit who does not want to be pushed into the water just because she is dressed for swimming. The important ideas are all here, but explained in relatable and often humorous ways.

I also appreciate that Brian discusses different relationships, and how readers might be comfortable doing some things with some people, but not others. She also addresses the tricky matter of family, asserting that no, you don’t have to kiss your aunt just because your parents told you to. You still get to set your own boundaries. I think it is important for children to understand from a young age that they do not “owe” anyone physical affection, even if people they love and trust –like their own family–insist that they do.

Finally, Brian does not neglect to have the reader reflect on their own behavior. Have they pressured others to do something they did not want to do? Threatened them? Bribed them? Have they shared secrets told to them in confidence? Maybe shared photos that were sent to them and meant for their eyes only? It is never too early to start thinking about how one’s behavior affects others. Brian does not let readers off the hook. They should expect others to respect them, but they also must respect others.

Consent (for Kids!) is a valuable tool for parents and educators, touching on all the key points of consent and bodily autonomy, while doing so in an accessible, kid-friendly manner. The concepts learned here in somewhat humorous scenarios can be applied throughout life to all sorts of situations. This is a book that will really grow with the reader, helping them navigate life.

5 stars

The Secret of Danger Point by Kim Dwinell

The Secret of Danger Point by Kim Dwinell Book Cover

Information

Goodreads: The Secret of Danger Point
Series: Surfside Girls #1
Source: Library
Published: 2017

Summary

Sam and Jade’s friendship has felt a little off lately. Jade keeps giggling over boys, which annoys Sam. And now Sam can see ghosts–and Jade thinks she might be losing it. The ghosts want Sam to help save their home. But what can one girl do?

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Review

The Secret of Danger Point begins the adventures of Sam and Jade, two friends who solve supernatural mysteries at their home on the beach. The book feels like an instant classic, reminiscent of serial mysteries like the Nancy Drew stories, but updated for a modern audience. The cheerful illustrations will appeal to tween readers of graphic novels, as will all the adventure–and romance! Anyone who has ever dreamed of solving mysteries like the Boxcar Children or the Hardy Boys will love the Surfside Girls books.

Admittedly, The Secret of Danger Point feels very much like the first book in the series. Readers have to spend time getting to know Sam and Jade, their likes and dislikes, and the ups and downs of their friendship. Sam likes to surf and swim, while Jade prefers to kayak and visit the library. Sam is not very interested in boys right now, but Jade is beginning to act silly whenever they see someone of the opposite sex. Sam has been chosen to be the guardian of Danger Point, but Jade can’t see the ghosts–and she is not convinced Sam is seeing them, either. All this exposition takes some time that takes away from the mystery. However, I think it is worth it to get to know Sam and Jade and their home.

The book is very charming, and I think the illustration-style will appeal to the intended tween audience. The artwork is done in bright, beachy colors that make Danger Point and its inhabitants come alive; readers may close the book wondering when they can schedule their own visit to the seaside. It is also not remotely scary. The ghosts are depicted as friendly people who just want to keep their home, and who become friends with Sam. I loved the concept of Sam and Jade helping spirits, but in a fun way!

Readers looking for a delightful summer read, a new mystery series, or the perfect graphic novel series to keep themselves (or their tween readers) engrossed will love the Surfside Girls. So far, there are two books in the series. But I hope there are many more!

4 stars

Goldie Vance, Vol. 3 by Hope Larson, et al

Goldie Vance Volume 3

Information

Goodreads: Goldie Vance, Vol. 3
Series: Goldie Vance #3
Source: Library
Published: 2017

Summary

Teen detective Goldie Vance teams up with her long-time rival Sugar Maple to find out who has been sabotaging the drivers in the Prescription One Race. Can Goldie uncover the truth before someone gets hurt?

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Volume 3 may be my favorite Goldie Vance mystery yet. It follows sixteen-year-old hotel employee Goldie as she agrees to help her childhood rival, Sugar Maple, figure out who has been sabotaging the drivers for an upcoming race. Throughout the series, Goldie has been resentful of Sugar Maple’s money and good fortune, as well as justly annoyed by Sugar’s dismissive attitude towards the hotel employees. However, as the story progresses, readers begin to see that there may be more to Sugar than meets the eye. This an uplifting story all about girl power!

The Goldie Vance mysteries have, thus far, been rather uneven in quality. Volume 1 is solid, if a little unrealistic, while volume 2 fails to explain key plot points, making it rather confusing. Volume 3, however, combines an action-packed plot with fantastic character development, making it the strongest installment so far.

In this volume, readers will love to see Goldie finally interacting with her nemesis Sugar Maple, who has been making regular cameo appearances. And they, like Goldie, may be surprised to find themselves cheering for Sugar’s success. After all, she’s a female race car driver in a male-dominated sport and she supports other women by hiring an all-female crew. Could it be Sugar is not totally evil? Watching Goldie come to the same, reluctant, realization is part of what this book so satisfying.

And the illustrations! I absolutely love the bright colors and the bubblegum, 1960s teenagery feel they give off. The artwork of a graphic novel can often be the factor that makes me pick up or put aside a volume. So far, I have immensely enjoyed all the art for the Goldie Vance comics.

Readers looking for an upbeat mystery series appropriate for tweens and young teens need look no farther than the Goldie Vance stories. The appealing artwork, bold female protagonist, and fast-paced plot make a winning combination. Hopefully this comic series continues!

4 stars

Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Information

Goodreads: Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl
Series: Mighty Jack #3
Source: Library
Published: 2019

Summary

Jack and Lilly have travelled between worlds and defeated giants. Now the next adventure comes knocking on their door when Zita the Spacegirl arrives with news of an inter-dimensional threat. The giants are ready to wage war and reclaim the Earth. Can the three team up to save the day?

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Review

Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl is a crossover event that brings Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl graphic novel series together. One could consider it book three of Jack’s series or book four of Zita’s. That being said, readers should be very familiar with both series, or all the allusions made in this book will likely go over their heads. I, for instance, have not read the Zita books in years, so the repeated references to her old adventures and former friends got tiresome very quickly. On the whole, however, the book is a fun adventure and a solid addition to Hatke’s work.

The greatest strength of the Mighty Jack books is, in my opinion, how wonderfully they feel like old-school adventures. I used to spend my childhood summers reading books like King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Andrew Lang’s fairy tales, and Ben Hatke’s work makes me think he must have done much the same. The Mighty Jack stories give me that same thrill of heroism and wonder.

Still, I do wish that Hatke would make some changes as the series progresses. At times, I think the books feel like an old-school adventure in part because they feel so resistant to changes that have occurred in the publishing world. For example, the cast of characters has not grown any more diverse over the years. And this book features that tired old trope of the two female leads–Zita and Lilly–meeting each other, and Lilly becoming jealous of Jack’s attention. Really? Did our two strong female leads have to fight over a boy? Did that add anything at all to the story? It doesn’t, and I, like many other women, am tired of seeing female characters pitted against each other as rivals for a boy, when they have so much more to offer.

As an added disappointment, the book leads up to a huge fight between the giants and the Earth, which ends up being laughably anti-climatic. [Don’t read farther if you want to be totally unspoiled!] It almost feels like the author worried either 1) that the book was becoming too long and had to be wrapped up pronto or 2) that the author worried the full-scale epicness promised would actually be too violent and/or devastating to depict in its entirety, so instead he chose to gloss over all that. Option 3 is that the book is really supposed to be a message about the power of love, peace, and words and how they triumph over violence. It’s still a disappointment.

Hardcore fans of Zita and Jack will probably love this crossover, especially the tweens to whom the books are primarily marketed. I loved it, too, but I still cannot overlook its flaws. I hope to see more Mighty Jack books, but I also hope that the cast can become more diverse and that we can throw away tired tropes like females fighting over a boy’s attention.

3 Stars

Goldie Vance, Vol. 2 by Hope Larson & Brittney Williams (Illustrator)

Goldie Vance Volume 2

Information

Goodreads: Goldie Vance, Vol. 2
Series: Goldie Vance #2
Source: Library
Published: 2017

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Goldie Vance works at the Florida hotel her dad manages, and dreams of becoming the resort detective. So when she and her best friend Cheryl find an unconscious astronaut washed up on the beach, Goldie sees her chance to prove herself. But what if she loses her friendship with Cheryl in the process?

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Review

The Goldie Vance graphic novels are a fun series featuring a biracial teenage sleuth who dreams of becoming the in-house detective for the Florida resort her father manages. Set in the 1960s, they feature over-the-top plotlines involving Russian operatives, secret agents, and plenty of references to space. Readers seeking an upbeat all-ages comic featuring a likable and self-assured female lead will love the Goldie Vance stories.

My favorite part of the series so far may admittedly be the illustrations. I absolutely love how stylish everyone is, as well as the 1960s vibe. And I tend to be drawn to vibrantly colored graphic novels, so the color palette really appeals to me. Plus, did I mention how cute Goldie and all her friends are? Often she is depicted with over-exaggerated emotions or little hearts around her, rather like a manga character. I think tween readers in particular will really love the art.

The stories so far have tended to be a little unbelievable–this one even more so than the first volume. Goldie and her friend Cheryl find an astronaut washed up on the beach. This leads up to a plot featuring secret government projects, NASA, and more. Plenty of people, including the marketing team for the comics, have compared the Goldie Vance books to Nancy Drew, but they have more of a spy thriller thing going on. Nancy’s adventures are sometimes far-fetched, but they seem like they could conceivably happen in the real world. Goldie’s adventures are more escapist.

This volume also suffers a little more than the first from Goldie’s tendencies to make inferences without explanation or evidence. In this story, she sees Cheryl giving the astronaut a ride, and, for reasons unknown, completely flips out. Later on, it becomes apparent that Cheryl must have been missing for some time, but this is not really depicted. For awhile, I was actually unsure what mystery Goldie was supposed to be solving, because tracking down Cheryl because she was in a car did not seem to be all that mysterious.

Still, on the whole, the Goldie Vance comics are a delight to read. They are clearly not supposed to be taken very seriously, but are, rather, a fun mystery series appropriate for tweens and teens alike. I’m not sure why I have not seen many others talking about Goldie Vance. Each time I finish one of her adventures, I immediately want to start a new one!

3 Stars

The Flower of the Witch by Enrico Orlandi, Trans. by Jamie Richards (ARC Review)

Information

Goodreads: The Flower of the Witch
Series: None
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Published: September 29, 2020

Summary

At the age of ten, Tami left his village on journey to become a man. He has been told that he needs to retrieve the flowers of the witch on the mountain to achieve his quest and return home. But, on his way, he inadvertently angers the spirits, causing them to renew their fighting with a northern village. Now he must decide: will he complete his quest or defend the villagers?

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Review

The Flower of the Witch is a reflective re-imagining of the classic quest story that asks what it really means to grow up. Tami left his village over a year ago, at the age of ten, to go on a journey to become a man. Unfortunately, no one told him what that would entail. He has been fighting monsters and saving princesses, but he still does not think he has fulfilled his quest. Now, he has been told that retrieving the flowers from the witch on the mountain will earn him the honor he needs to return home. But, when he angers the spirits, he must decide what is more important: retrieving the flowers or protecting the people he has endangered. Enrico Orlandi offers a provocative look at what it really means to grow up, and what kind of qualities we value in society.

The classic journey to “become a man” often seems to hinge on some sort of bravery, as exemplified through fighting. The message is that maturity–and masculinity–are defined through physical strength and aggression. Tami has clearly grown up in a culture where this is the norm, as evidenced by his attempts to achieve manhood by fighting monsters and saving damsels in distress. However, over time, Tami reluctantly has to conclude that he has not yet achieved manhood–and he has no idea how to do so. Left without any guidance from a society that seems not to value Tami in and of himself, he is left to wander the wilderness, nearly dying, because he is not considered “worthy” enough to return home.

Tami’s story encourages readers to rethink the classic quest narrative and the values it assumes. Why is physical strength equated with masculinity? Why must boys “prove” themselves to be considered men? What does it actually mean to grow up? And what kind of values should we be instilling in our children? Additionally, why is there such a hurry to grow up at all? Tami himself has to answer these questions and determine what kind of man he would one day like to be.

The beautiful artwork adds to the magic of the story, taking readers on journey to the north where demons still guard the roads and spirits affect the everyday lives of the people. Spirits and witches come alive through the distinctive illustrations, as does the frozen landscape where Tami must learn to survive. Readers who enjoy fantasy comics will find themselves drawn into this one.

The Flower of the Witch is an original twist on the classic coming-of-age story, as well as the fantasy quest. It encourages readers to identify the assumptions they may hold about what it means to “be a man” or to grow up. However, while the message is thought-provoking, it never overtakes the compelling storyline of which it is a part. Tami’s journey will enchant anyone who enjoys a good fantasy quest.

3 Stars

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King Boo Cover

Information

Goodreads: Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
Series: Mighty Jack #2
Source: Library
Published: 2017

Summary

Maddy has been taken by a giant! Now it is up to Jack and Lilly to save her. But, when the two get separated, Jack will have to figure out how to complete his mission on his own.

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Review

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke jumps right into the adventure where book one left off. Jack and Lilly journey across worlds to find Maddy and save her from the clutches of a giant. Along the way, they meet new allies and face new enemies. This action-packed read is sure to thrill readers who love fantasy adventures.

What I love most about the Mighty Jack series is perhaps how classic the books feel. They remind me of curling up on a summer day to read tales of heroes and monsters. They pay homage to fairy tale and fantasy tropes, while creating an original adventure. This is the kind of read that you wish would last just a little bit longer, always just a little bit longer.

My one critique is that Lilly remains a far more interesting–and capable–character than Jack, the titular hero. While Jack is off rushing headlong into fights, and failing to achieve much as a result, Lilly likes to step back, assess the situation, and create a workable plan. She ends up saving Jack more often than not. She also proves to have the true heart of a hero, demonstrating self-sacrificial love in moments when Jack remains focused on his own mission. Truly, the series ought to be named “Incredible Lilly and That Guy She Keeps Saving.”

If you can get past the feeling that the series has been inaccurately named for an incapable male instead of his amazing female friend, the Mighty Jack series is truly enchanting. It contains all the wonderful fantasy elements one could want, from goblins and dragons to magical portals to other worlds. If you enjoy stories like Narnia or King Arthur or fairy tales, the Mighty Jack series might just be for you.

4 stars