The Secret Garden: A Graphic Novel – Mariah Marsden (Adapter)

Illustrations – Hanna Luechtefeld

The Secret Garden was one of my childhood favourites. I read my treasured copy until the front cover began to separate from the rest of the book and watched the 1993 movie so many times I could recite entire scenes to you. It’s now been several years since I last read the book; a friend borrowed my copy and never returned it and I haven’t been able to bring myself to read a copy that’s not my well loved, decades old one.

I absolutely adored Mariah Marsden’s adaptation of Anne of Green Gables and was looking forward to her next adaptation. Needless to say, I was delighted to learn that she was bringing me the story of contrary Mary Lennox, sweet animal whisperer Dickon and sickly Colin.

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This graphic novel adaptation stays true to the spirit of the novel but glosses over some of the details found in the original story. In particular, Mary’s life before she arrives at Misselthwaite Manor is barely touched on (the reasons for this are explained at the end). If you didn’t already know her background, the changes in her throughout the story wouldn’t be as meaningful. This story also ends before you find out what becomes of the three children.

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Although I had hoped Brenna Thummler, who illustrated the Anne of Green Gables adaptation, would return for any future adaptations, I did enjoy Hanna Luechtefeld’s style. I especially loved the way the colours fit Mary’s mood. When she first arrives at Misselthwaite Manor the colours are muted. The flashbacks to her life in India take on an orange hue. As the story progresses and life returns to Mary, Colin and the garden, the colours become richer.

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Following the story you’ll find information about Frances Hodgson Burnett’s life, details of the various locations found in the story and a glossary.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Green-growing secrets and magic await you at Misselthwaite Manor, now reimagined in this graphic novel adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s tale.

Ten-year-old Mary Lennox arrives at a secluded estate on the Yorkshire moors with a scowl and a chip on her shoulder. First, there’s Martha Sowerby: the too-cheery maid with bothersome questions who seems out of place in the dreary manor. Then there’s the elusive Uncle Craven, Mary’s only remaining family – whom she’s not permitted to see. And finally, there are the mysteries that seem to haunt the run-down place: rumours of a lost garden with a tragic past, and a midnight wail that echoes across the moors at night. 

As Mary begins to explore this new world alongside her ragtag companions – a cocky robin redbreast, a sour-faced gardener, and a boy who can talk to animals – she learns that even the loneliest of hearts can grow roots in rocky soil. 

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #13: Unicorn Famous – Dana Simpson

After having a best friend who’s a unicorn for quite a while now, Phoebe discovers that unicorns have become popular and she’s not sure whether she’s okay with that or not. I, too, was into unicorns before they were cool so I understand where Phoebe is coming from.

Marigold employs her skills as a tooth fairy negotiator. Like all parents do, whether they want to admit it or not, Phoebe’s dad attempts to customise her. Phoebe and Marigold enjoy a day out at the water park.

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Dakota receives a Blarty Award but she’s not entirely sure what the award is for since she doesn’t speak goblin. Marigold proves she has great taste in movies.

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Dakota and Phoebe settle on being kind of friends. Phoebe makes her own Halloween costume without any magical unicorn assistance.

And my personal favourite, Claustrophoebea and Pointyhead make another long overdue appearance.

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I can’t believe I still love this series so much! This is the thirteenth time I’ve been allowed to see what lies beneath the Shield of Boringness and I’d hang out with Marigold and her human, Phoebe, again tomorrow if Marigold was inclined to magic up the fourteenth graphic novel by then.

There’s a great blend of comics that explore things we already know in a new way, like Marigold’s obsession with her reflection, and entirely new, very important unicorn related information.

Unicorn sneers will make 62% of your freckles fall off.

We also discover what’s to blame for us not being able to get negative comments out of our heads. It was peanut butter all along. Who would have suspected something that’s seemingly innocuous was capable of something so dastardly?!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to fall in love with this graphic novel early.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When your best friend is a unicorn, every day is a stroll down the red carpet. Phoebe Howell’s unicorn BFF, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, is happy to provide the celebrity treatment – teaching Phoebe fancy new spells, giving her a ride to school so she doesn’t have to ride the bus, and even negotiating with the tooth fairy on her behalf.

But when Phoebe starts noticing that unicorns have become a trendy fashion statement, she doesn’t feel quite so unique. Fortunately, she’s distracted by adventures including a visit to the unicorn community and a trip to the woods to see her friend Dakota receive an unusual honour at the goblin award ceremony. Unicorn Famous is filled with amusing examples of the extraordinary lengths friends will go to make each other feel special. 

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #12: Virtual Unicorn Experience – Dana Simpson

It’s no secret how much I love this series. There are unicorns, magic and nerds. What’s not to love?! Although it’s technically a series for kids, this adult finds it delightful. The friendship between this unicorn and her nerd is really sweet, full of mutual admiration, laughter and a healthy dose of sarcasm.

In this collection we learn that Marigold floats when she’s complimented. As she fishes for compliments a lot I would have thought we’d already know about the floating but this is new information for both Phoebe and me.

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Phoebe learns the Unicorn Investigative Agency has her under surveillance. The solution? A sparkle transfusion! Of course, this doesn’t exactly go to plan.

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Phoebe finds out what life without a phone is like. Marigold attends an audition and it’s Phoebe’s job to distract her until she finds out the result. Phoebe enjoys one of life’s pleasures – falling asleep to the sound of rain.

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We learn that Marigold has a magical pocket dimension, which could be the answer to all of your storage needs. Phoebe performs in a talent show and Marigold has jury duty. We discover that Marigold went through a goth phase.

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My favourite chuckle was when Marigold showed us how good she looks in pink.

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I enjoyed seeing a couple of different sides to Dakota. I was disappointed by the comics that included Max though. His character has so much potential but he wasn’t given a lot to do in this collection.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Marigold Heavenly Nostrils is one magical unicorn – and she knows it! But sometimes it’s harder for humans like Phoebe to understand that they can be magical, too. In the latest Phoebe and Her Unicorn adventure, the pair visits the science museum, tests out an extra-special virtual unicorn reality, and performs in the school talent show. With the help of her best friend and an emergency sparkle transfusion, Phoebe learns about confidence, empathy, and resilience – and even how to live without her cellphone. It’s all part of the very real excitement of Virtual Unicorn Experience.

Happily Ever After & Everything In Between – Debbie Tung

After watching my life play out in the pages of Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and Book Love, I was eagerly anticipating seeing what other thing that makes me me she was going to explore. This third graphic novel is where our lives diverge, which turned this read from ‘how is she getting into my head?’ to ‘aww, Debbie and Jason are such a cute couple’.

Whether you’re deciding what to cook for dinner

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or ensuring the essentials find their way into the household budget,

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it’s important that your partner understands your love language.

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While there are some sweet, kinda mushy moments,

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single, introverted bookworms will also find plenty of relatable moments in this collection.

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While I couldn’t guess what Debbie would tackle next after finishing her second graphic novel, the reveal at the end of this one seems to me to be a pretty big clue about what to expect from the next one.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From the bestselling author of Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and Book Love comes a funny and adorable collection of comics about married life. From choosing a movie and sharing (or not sharing) dessert to snoring (naturally) and knowing when someone needs a cup of tea and a cozy blanket, Happily Ever After is the perfect gift for anyone in a relationship.

The comics in Happily Ever After & Everything In Between may be inspired by Debbie Tung’s marriage to her extrovert husband, but any couple can relate to increasingly relaxed anniversaries, slowly seeing more of each other’s weird sides, or the punishment for taking care of your sick loved one (catching whatever they had). Happily Ever After humorously captures what everyday love looks like – both the sweet moments and the mundane – making it a fitting gift for weddings, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.

I Left the House Today! – Cassandra Calin

I probably should be embarrassed by how relatable I found a lot of these comics. Sure, there were also a fair few that I personally didn’t relate to, but overall I haven’t felt so seen since Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and Book Love. You know the kind of seen I’m talking about: the kind where you’re not entirely sure that the artist hasn’t been covertly following you and drawing your life for all the world to see.

Taking on a range of everyday occurrences, including the quest for perfect adequate makeup,

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having your expectations and reality diverge just a teensy bit

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and the equally horrific experiences of losing sight of the spider someone else was going to take care of for you

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and someone calling your home phone.

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A lot of comics had me nodding in agreement and others had me chuckling. There were a couple that went over my head but not enough to dampen my enjoyment. I just wish there were at least another 50 pages because it felt like I’d only just begun when I reached the final page.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Hilarious and relatable comics about one young woman’s life, relationships, and day-to-day humorous musings on why it’s good to leave the house sometimes – and when it’s better to stay home.

Cassandra Calin’s ability to document the hilarity of relatable everyday events in a series of webcomics has generated a huge following on social media. This beautifully illustrated compendium of first-person comics about the trials of the single life, school, stress, junk food, shaving and maintaining a healthy self-image. Cassandra Calin’s comics frequently highlight the humorous gap between expectations and reality, especially when it comes to appearance and how much she can accomplish in one day. 

55 Slightly Sinister Stories – Racha Mourtada

Illustrations – Lynn Atme

Do you know how hard it is to get your point across in only 55 words? I’d never be able to accomplish that because when it comes to ideas and books, I’m a rambler. I don’t even get my thoughts organised that quickly so I take my hat off to the author for managing it.

That paragraph there? 55 words.

While I really like the idea of bite sized stories I don’t think they’re for me. I love world building and character development too much.

A lot of these stories revolve around love, finding it and losing it. While there were some that had no impact on me at all, I did have a couple of favourites: A Literary Death and Fashion Victim.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

55 stories. 55 words each. No more. No less. Enjoy this collection of flash fiction with a sinister twist. 

Size does matter in these delightfully tiny tales populated with narcoleptic drivers, bickering backers, suspicious spouses, and other memorable characters. Full of dark humour, intrigue, and absurdity, this collection of slightly sinister (and occasionally sweet) stories delivers a bite-size reading experience to satisfy any literary craving.

Snoopy: First Beagle in Space – Charles M. Schulz

This selection of Peanuts comics takes me back to my childhood, and even further. Alongside the usual baseball games, school reports and Peppermint Patty falling asleep in class, the kids’ thoughts on newsworthy occurrences at the time, such as the moon landing and Halley’s Comet, are also included.

While Snoopy prepares to be the first beagle on the moon,

Lucy considers the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Naturally it can’t exist; if it did it would have already made contact with her.

When he’s not being an astronaut, Snoopy is either trying to figure out what type of bird Woodstock is or leading Woodstock and the other Beagle Scouts on adventures a little closer to home. When the round-headed kid Charlie Brown bails one of the Scouts out of jail (don’t ask!) and attempts to return her to the rest of the troop they get lost in the woods. Peppermint Patty and Marcie to the rescue!

Sally and Eudora prepare themselves for another summer at camp

and Sally plots revenge.

There’s also time to celebrate Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Ground Hug Day,

and I saw some space comics from the archives for the first time.

While I love all of the Peanuts kids I’ve never been that big of a fan of Snoopy himself, especially the World War I flying ace comics. However, there’s plenty of variety in this collection and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Join Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang as he seeks new milestones in the space race!

Even though the first moon landing was 50 years ago, Snoopy has a bold new mission: to be the first beagle in space! Join Snoopy as he sets out on his ambitious quest, while also leading Woodstock and friends as a Beagle Scout and keeping the company of his owner, the round-headed kid Charlie Brown.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #11: Camping with Unicorns – Dana Simpson

It’s time to hang out with Marigold Heavenly Nostrils’ favourite unicorn (herself, of course!) and her human, Phoebe.

Once again it’s summer vacation and there’s so much to do, once Phoebe winds down from school.

Phoebe attempts to teacher Marigold how to lie.

Max and Phoebe play hide and seek, and Phoebe and Marigold play some games where everyone wins. Well, sometimes. Meanwhile Dakota is enjoying all of the perks of being a goblin princess, from the the tiara to the luxury of being transported upon her “throne thingy”, complete with cup holders.

After spending so long being frenemies, Phoebe and Dakota decide it’s time to reboot their friendship. I wholeheartedly approve of this development because it means more Dakota! I love Dakota!

Phoebe and Max’s families go camping together. When they’re not roasting marshmallows around the campfire or attracting the local wildlife,

Phoebe, Max and Marigold enjoy nature (and meet a unicorn who is roughing it).

I learned that unicorns look even more adorable when they’re wearing swimsuits and discovered why schools are much more interesting during summer vacation. I tagged along with Marigold as she entertained herself while Phoebe was at school and decided Marigold’s favourite magical loophole is now one of my own favourites. Phoebe’s own loophole was a familiar one.

When I realised this collection would mostly take place during summer vacation I expected to see a rehash of previous summers with Phoebe and Marigold. I’m not sure if it’s just because I needed a unicorn fix but this collection felt really fresh. New characters were introduced and I learned something new about some I’ve known since the first collection.

I hope I don’t have to wait too long for my next magical unicorn fix. I’ll definitely be rereading this collection and most likely revisiting some earlier ones in the meantime.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Life is never boring when your best friend is a unicorn! The latest installment in this bestselling series is full of mischief, magic and adventure — as well as an important reminder to always stay true to yourself.

School’s out, so Phoebe and her unicorn best friend, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, have the entire summer to play games, visit the pool, and even go camping. Unicorn horns are excellent utensils for roasting things over the campfire, too, even if Marigold prefers toasted apples to s’mores. While exploring in the woods, Phoebe and friends meet a unicorn named Alabaster, who uses a special video game console that’s powered by plants. Throughout her summer adventures, Phoebe learns that being cool isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that it’s much better to be your true self. It’s all part of the unforgettable experience of Camping with Unicorns

Charlie Brown: All Tied Up – Charles M. Schulz

I think we’ve established by now that whenever I find a new Peanuts collection I’m going to be compelled to tell you all about it. I grew up with these characters, both on screen and in books, and no matter what other comics find their way into my heart there will always be a special peanut shaped space reserved for Charlie Brown and his friends.

Eudora, one of my favourite minor characters, returns and this time she’s a student in Sally’s class rather than her summer camp friend. Sally introduces her to Charlie Brown.

The other characters are doing what they usually do. Lucy’s presence is a constant irritation to Schroeder, who just wants to be left in peace with his music. Peppermint Patty and Marcie are in class, while Linus is home in bed. Lucy suspects he’s faking his illness.

Snoopy antagonises the cat next door and plays hockey with Woodstock. Charlie Brown faces off against the kite eating tree. Lucy sulks and Peppermint Patty acknowledges defeat.

I always love comics that focus on Peppermint Patty and in this collection she falls in love!

She even gives what may be her best answer in class.

For some reason, while I love all of the other characters, I rarely find Snoopy funny. There were a lot of comics of him taking Woodstock and the rest of the troop on hikes and trying to figure out what type of bird Woodstock is. I’d much rather spend more time with the kids.

Overall it was still a lot of fun. I’m ready for the next collection now!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this collection.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This year, Charlie Brown is determined to turn around his bad luck, lead his baseball team to victory, and fly his kite without interference from the dirty rotten kite-eating tree. 

While Charlie Brown is all tied up, the rest of the gang doesn’t hold back on having fun. Pig-Pen unexpectedly charms Peppermint Patty at the Valentine’s dance, Marcie and Snoopy run a commercial airline, and Lucy tries her hardest to win Schroeder’s affection. Whether you’re safe on the ground or tangled up in a tree like Charlie Brown, you won’t want to miss the fun in this latest Peanuts for kids adventure.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #10: The Unicorn Whisperer – Dana Simpson

I really enjoyed this collection. While the previous couple of Phoebe and Her Unicorn books have still been fun to read, it also felt like I was largely reading about the same series of events in slightly different ways. This collection had a lot more variety and also introduced some new ideas and jokes to the usual reflection gazing and all round unicorn wonderment that makes this series both funny and heartwarming, with some enjoyable sarcasm and nerd points.

It’s a nice challenge, attempting to whittle down my numerous favourites and decide which ones to include here. We’ll start with an obvious favourite, when Phoebe’s love of reading overrides her need to do her homework.

Phoebe also makes a necessary improvement to her bedtime story.

While Phoebe is working on her history report (and no, it’s not allowed to be about unicorns again) Marigold catches up with Todd. Phoebe considers what her Halloween costume will be this year, begins to figure out her superhero origin story and gradually learns what her superpowers are.

Later Phoebe comes down with a case of sparkle fever and Marigold is offended during a game of Monopoly. Phoebe has a nightmare and Marigold has a good dream. Both attend a goblin opera and Marigold visits Concertina Lovelyflank’s Sugar Boutique.

Marigold regales Phoebe with some unicorn lore, including what happens if a unicorn stays too long at the beach and what unicorns believed shooting stars were. Phoebe learns the truth about the Tooth Fairy.

Marigold is always ready to lend some magic to help out her best friend, although the results can be quite unexpected.

I love that after all this time Marigold still has the ability to delight and surprise Phoebe (and myself).

Despite all of the magic this series remains relatable

and at its core lies a heartwarming interspecies friendship.

It’s lovely to take some time to remember the innocence of childhood and focus on the good, the funny and the magic that surrounds us, even if we aren’t lucky enough to have a unicorn as our best friend.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to love this graphic novel early.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

For 9-year-old Phoebe Howell and her sparkling companion, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, every day is an adventure. In this latest installation of Dana Simpson’s award-winning Phoebe and Her Unicorn series, Phoebe navigates the challenges of school life with a little help from her unicorn friend, who is always ready with the perfect spell for the occasion. But as the magic spells mount up, both Phoebe and Marigold find themselves wondering if sometimes they might be taking things just a little too far …