Saturday, October 16, 2021

Cartoon Saturday- ¡¡Manu!!

Fernández, Kelly. ¡¡Manu!!
October 19th 2021 by Graphix
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Manu has lived at a magical school for girls that is staffed by nuns since they found her as an abandoned infant and took her in. There has always something different about her, but most of the nuns put up with her irrepressible behavior since she has very advanced magical skills, which are considered a gift from the saints. When the new school year starts, Manu is back in her usual form, creating a mango that grows and then explodes allover the school. Her best friend, Josephina, is angry that Manu has caused a mess, and wishes that the saints would take her friend's powers away. Eventually, Manu realizes that she is having problems with her powers blinking out, all because of Josephina's curse. The sisters can't help her,  although they do find a work order-- a potion she needs to rub behind her ears that smells horrible! Her classmates make fun of her, so when the sisters must travel to the city to provide magical healing to ayoung boy, she begs to go. When the sisters exorcise a demon from the boy, the demon asks Manu if she is "one of them". This, combined with a book on black magic that she finds in the library, encourages Manu to try to rid herself of the curse. Of course, this rarely ends well, but aided by Mother Dolores' amulet, Manu and Josephina try to make things right, and learn a lot about Manu's background while doing so. 

"Academy" books are a subgenre of magical realism that has great appeal for young readers, who imagine themselves in magical schools like Hogwarts, the Magisterium, Carthak University, Bloor's Academy or Wizard's Hall. While the lessons and classes aren't described in detail, we do get a good feel for some of the kinds of magic the girls are taught. Santa Dominga Academy is the first that I can remember being described in a graphic novel. This adds a lot of visual detail to the school, so we can seethe uniforms, the lush grounds, and the nuns in their stark habits. We also get some good interpretations of goat like demons, not to mention exploding mangoes. 

Even though Manu is a challenging friend to have, Josephina stands by her side, apologizing early on for cursing her friend, and doing everything that she can to help her. The sisters are very involved in the students' lives, and care a lot for Manu. When we finally see the whole history of how Manu came to be at Santa Dominga, this makes a littler more sense. I am curious to see, if there is a second book, how Manu and Josephina's relationship progresses. 

The colors in the few pages that had them in the ARC were primarily greens, yellows, and browns, which gave a nice connection of nature, especially when it came to the setting of the school and also some of the creatures that weave in and out of the story. I'd love to see the owls in full color. Readers who want more magic in their graphic novels will enjoy this one, which is similar to Layne's Beetle and the Hollow Bones, Aldridge's Estranged, Steinkellner's The Okay Witch or Ostertag's Witch Boy or The Girl From the Sea.

I don't know that I will buy this one. There have been a lot of graphic novels coming out, and this one was just okay. I liked the style of illustrations and the inclusion of Spanish phrases, but the characters and story were fairly conventional. 

Ms. Yingling

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