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Beetle & the Hollowbones
2020
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Publishers Weekly Review
Though Beetle's formidable grandmother has long taught her goblin magic at home--all bones, potions, and ancient family practices--the green-eared girl yearns for and idolizes sorcery, which society deems the more powerful craft. It's also the power that Beetle's childhood best friend--skeletal, undead Kat Hollowbone--has cultivated at prestigious schools. When Kat returns to take up an apprenticeship with her emotionally abusive aunt Marla, much has changed: neither girl writes fan fiction or role-plays anymore, and Beetle's closest friend is now Blob Ghost, a nonbinary spirit haunting and bound to a local mall. As Marla seeks to demolish the mall to reclaim the Hollowbones' ancestral estate, Beetle and Kat reconnect and work together to free Blob Ghost. Solid character work by debut creator Layne slowly builds themes of outgrown childhood friendship, cultural difference, consent, and queer romance that highlight the lush world she's created. A saturated palette that changes and brightens amid strong shows of power, and resonant interpersonal elements--including Beetle's bond with her grandmother--work in harmonious tandem to deliver a stalwart story of magic, witches, and the mall. Ages 8--12. Agent: Susan Graham, Einstein Literary. (Aug.)
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4--8--Beetle, a 12-year-old goblin, lives with her grandmother, the helpful town witch. When she's not bored to tears being homeschooled on goblin magic, she's hanging out with her best friend, the teeny and adorable Blob Ghost, a floating, speechless, but incredibly expressive red orb who haunts the local mall. Though magical forces prevent Blob Ghost from leaving the mall, Beetle is certain that the two will always be pals--until Beetle's former best friend, Kat Hollowbone, arrives. Beetle and Kat don't get along quite the same as before--there might be feelings involved now--but Kat isn't here alone. Kat's a sorcerer's apprentice for her menacing aunt, Marla Hollowbone, who just happens to have bought out the mall. And unless Beetle and Kat do something, the mall will be demolished, with Blob Ghost still trapped inside. Cartoonist Layne makes a stellar debut. Simultaneously gorgeous and goofy, the artwork is reminiscent of the animated series Bee and Puppycat and a delicious love letter to shoujo manga. Layne's supernatural cast is fantastic, from green-skinned Beetle and her grandmother to Kat and Marla, respectively, skeletal cat and bird creatures. Characters' LGBTQ identities, such as Beetle and Kat's changing relationship, as well as the use of the they pronoun for Blob Ghost, are gently woven throughout the narrative. Relying on intersecting plotlines in lieu of a more straightforward romp, Layne conveys themes of independence, identity, and realization of one's potential. VERDICT Action-packed yet heartfelt, short and sweet yet riveting, this one is not to be missed.--Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles P.L.
Booklist Review
Preteen goblin Beetle's potions studies can wait: she'd much rather hang out at the 'Allows Town mall with her best pal, Blob Ghost, a non-binary, jelly-like shape-shifter who communicates through their transformations. Beetle lives with Gran, the powerful Town Witch, but she thinks that the kind of magic passed down in their family isn't "real magic." Stirring up all kinds of feelings, Beetle's former best friend, Kat Hollowbones, is back in 'Allows Town with her aunt Marla. When Marla's plans to return the town to its former glory threaten to harm Blob Ghost and exploit Kat's powerful talent for sorcery, Beetle summons the magical abilities Gran knew she possessed, and Gran's there to help. Layne, creator of the Demon Street weekly fantasy webcomic, grounds Beetle's bighearted adventure in earthly settings like the mall and Gran's cozy cottage, and she fills 'Allows Town with a gleeful array of fantastic creatures: no two are alike. Her vibrant, comical, and overall super-appealing art is a good match for sometimes-scary and high-octane scenes. Beetle's hero's journey has the adorably vulnerable Blob Ghost at its heart; many kids will also relate to the friendship-and-more story between Beetle and Kat. A high-spirited debut about learning to trust one's heart and instincts.
Horn Book Review
Twelve-year-old goblin Beetle's old friend Kat Hollowbone is back in town. After a rough reconciliation with the sophisticated skeleton, Beetle comes to realize that Kat's aunt is the real enemy: she wants to tear down the mall, which is the haunting ground of Beetle's (nonbinary) spirit friend Blob Ghost. Beetle herself, in fact, might just be destined for a new type of relationship with Kat. Luminous art and creative panel placement make for a zippy read in this graphic novel, whose LGBTQIA+ representation is treated as matter-of-factly as its fantasy elements. Shoshana Flax September/October 2020 p.50(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Review
This splashy fantasy graphic novel blends rollicking adventure with inclusive teen themes. Though bustling with goblins, witches, ghosts, and skeletons, this beautifully drawn graphic novel addresses important questions facing even mortal kids. It tells the story of Beetle, a young goblin and aspiring witch who is torn between hanging out at the mall with pal Blob Ghost and serious study. When childhood friend Kat Hollowbone returns to Beetle's town to apprentice with her sorceress aunt, it disrupts Beetle's friendship with Blob Ghost as well as Beetle's ideas about identity and relationships. The story quickly develops urgency as Kat's aunt emerges as a villain intent on demolishing the mall, thereby endangering Blob Ghost, who is bound to that location. Layne's renderings of her paranormal cast are highly evocative. Green-skinned Beetle has large, pointy ears and a tufted tail; skeletal Aunt Hollowbones has a spindly bird skull for a head. Climactic action scenes are expertly rendered. Diversity is a strength in this female-driven text, which features a tenderly portrayed LGBTQ love story between Kat and Beetle. Wise older women act as mentors, body diversity is casually positive, and Blob Ghost uses they/them pronouns throughout. Amid the fantasy elements, Beetle, Kat, and Blob Ghost text, video chat, post pictures online, and look at one another's social media feeds--and Beetle is forced, grumbling, to take the bus to the mall. This inclusive fantasy adventure passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. (Graphic fantasy. 10-14) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
A Stonewall Honor Book

An enchanting, riotous, and playfully illustrated debut graphic novel following a young goblin trying to save her best friend from the haunted mall--perfect for fans of Steven Universe and Adventure Time .

In the eerie town of 'Allows, some people get to be magical sorceresses, while other people have their spirits trapped in the mall for all ghastly eternity.

Then there's twelve-year-old goblin-witch Beetle, who's caught in between. She'd rather skip being homeschooled completely and spend time with her best friend, Blob Glost. But the mall is getting boring, and B.G. is cursed to haunt it, tethered there by some unseen force. And now Beetle's old best friend, Kat, is back in town for a sorcery apprenticeship with her Aunt Hollowbone. Kat is everything Beetle wants to be: beautiful, cool, great at magic, and kind of famous online. Beetle's quickly being left in the dust.

But Kat's mentor has set her own vile scheme in motion. If Blob Ghost doesn't escape the mall soon, their afterlife might be coming to a very sticky end. Now, Beetle has less than a week to rescue her best ghost, encourage Kat to stand up for herself, and confront the magic she's been avoiding for far too long. And hopefully ride a broom without crashing.
Syndetics Unbound
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