Review of the Day: Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson
You know how you’ll be prepared to dislike something and then, through no fault of your own, you are forced to take a close and in-depth look at the very thing you were trying to avoid? Well there was nothing about the cover or premise of Magic Trixie that initially appealed to me. First off, it was being sold as a graphic novel that would appeal to the Babymouse set. And since I am Babymouse faithful, this was not an appealing notion to me. Then to look at it, the book is colorful. Incredibly colorful. Garishly colorful? It was difficult to say, but I wasn’t feeling optimistic. But through one occurrence or another I was sent my own copy of Magic Trixie a book that may well be the first in a series but that works perfectly well as its own stand alone story. To my surprise (heck delight) I found the story strong and the metaphor (oh yeah, I’m gonna talk “metaphors” about nine-year-old graphic novels) consistent. Magic Trixie is one of those comics that sneak up on you. Cleverer than you’d suspect and smarter than the average comic book, this is a story that’s going to get itself some fans whether or not it’s the Halloween season or not.
Today could probably be called a bad day, from Magic Trixie’s point of view. As always, her new baby sister is hogging everyone’s attention. Her grandpa beat her down the stairs so she has to eat prune pancakes for breakfast, her dad won’t drive her to work, she brought the wrong lunch to school, and now to top it all off next week is show-and-tell week and Trixie doesn’t have anything she can do to impress her friends. That is, until she gets a cunning plan. A plan that goes wrong in all the right ways.
I can pinpoint the exact moment when the book won me over. I had been intrigued by the fun choices Thompson had made regarding werewolves in flip-flops and mummies passing notes. But when Trixie’s grandmother showed up at school, I was a goner. I have never quite seen a middle grade author completely capture a phenomenon that is more recognizable to kids today than it was in the past. Are any of you familiar with grandparents who dislike the notion of being recognized AS grandparents? The ones who prefer to be called names like “Mimi”? I swear I’ve never seen this entity so well displayed as Trixie’s “Mimi” who is portrayed so perfectly in this book. The green fishnet tights. The leopard print high-heeled boots. The blond hair and serious facial work done over the years. Just blew me away, it did. After she leaves the other kids discuss their own grandparents and another one has “a mimi” that’s rather similar to Trixie’s (though she prefers to be called “Cookie”). In any case, it wouldn’t have worked if Thompson had only gone halfway but since the picture is so over the top the shock of it completely won me over, heart and soul.
The heart and soul of the story is just your basic sibling rivalry tale, which a lot of kids can dig. A mistake made by people doing graphic novels for younger kids is to rest entirely on the belief that the visual elements of the story will be so strong that you won’t need a cohesive story to pair alongside it. And if you do have a story, if your tale is set in a magical world then it will have to be some Secrets of Droon-like alternate world without a hook in kids’ everyday reality. Magic Trixie, however, is aware that while the characters are capable of magic, grounding everything in a big sister/little sister context is absolutely necessary. Then you can throw in fun elements like albino vampires and Hispanic werewolves and they’re just great supplements; not something your entire tale rests on for the sake of quality. Other elements keep it interesting. The baby is never entirely seen until the moment when Trixie, having snuck her into school for nefarious purposes, finds her surprise revealed too early. This is a good idea, though the baby is a surprisingly attractive little cuss. And it’s a good city book. Lots of attention to detail is spent on place and setting, though we never really find out what city all this takes place in. It’s New Yorkish, certainly, with the school appearing in a kind of Central Park area.
The lettering is by Jason Arthur, sure, but it’s based entirely on Jill Thompson’s own hand letters. However, I’m not entirely certain who did the inking and the coloring for this book. Is that Thompson too, or was someone entirely uncredited involved in that process? Because the colors really give the book some kick. There is a rule of thumb amongst some publishers that states that kids will not read a comic if it’s in black and white. And while I’ll agree that a colored Bone reprinted by Graphix is far tastier than its original b&w format, kids have been happily devouring comics, comic books, and online cartoons without a smidgen of interest in color for decades now. And Diary of a Wimpy Kid may sport some magnificent covers, but inside it’s a colorless humorous world as far as the eye can see. Still and all, while I’m sure a muted Magic Trixie would have been just as fun, I’m glad indeed that Harper Collins decided to give her a Technicolor kick.
Though she’s prone to the occasional “rememborize” and other Junie B. Jones-type purposeful mispronunciations, “Magic Trixie” is not your typical spunky redheaded heroine. Well . . . okay, maybe Trixie herself is, but the book is very much a group effort on the part of the characters. A monster book with a girl heroine, it may make the odd leap across gender lines if people are willing to help it to do so. I would bet that there’s many a little boy who’d like to read Magic Trixie and all its vampires, mummies, monsters, and werewolves even if it DOES sport a girl witch and a kitten on its cover. Funny, well-drawn, and original to its core, if you’re in need of a new graphic novel for a young child, Magic Trixie is more than the sum of its parts.
On shelves now.
Side Note: I would like the word “sassy” stricken from the English language. This is not a joke.
Other Blog Reviews:
- Pink Me
- Parenthetical.net (and I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks the dad is hot in this series)
- All Ages Reads
- Warren Peace!
Other Online Reviews:
- There’s an interview with Jill Thompson in which she discusses her “weakness for haunted things”.
- Plus you can buy the author’s stuff. I’m fond of the bat bib, myself.
- Oh heavens. Thompson’s the one responsible for the Little Endless? Get out of town. That’s a Sandman reference, for those of you who might be confused. Wow.
- Since this is Harper Collins we are dealing with, here is the book itself if you want to take a peek:
- And here is Mark Crilley’s video that discusses some of Jill’s past work, as well as Magic Trixie itself.
Filed under: Reviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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