On a Sunbeam – Tillie Walden

On a Sunbeam is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Graphic Story category.

Mia is the new kid. The lady introducing Mia to everyone is Alma. Elliot (Ell) is the mechanical genius with the blond hair; they’re non-binary and don’t talk. Jules is the one with ice skates on her shirt; she’s loud and a lot of fun. Charlotte, the ship’s captain, is wearing the white jacket. She’s shy but opens up once you get to know her. Charlotte and Alma are partners.

This awesomeness is their ship.

Their team restores old buildings. Like this one, which has hidden rooms and staircases that lead to nowhere. I need to go there immediately!

Five years earlier, Mia met Grace. It was the first day of school and their paths crossed in the principal’s office while they waited their turns to get into trouble.

I liked Grace immediately and I adored Mia and Grace as a couple. Even this romantiphobe can see that these girls are capable of breaking the cute-meter. I can’t get enough of them.

See? Aren’t they just the sweetest couple ever?? Why did no one ever escort me to a school dance on a hoverboard?!

I absolutely love this story! I’m a sucker for found families so this was right up my alley. I usually don’t like anything that hints at including a love story and this has two, but they were gorgeous. All of the main characters were wonderful. Each had a distinct personality and their various backgrounds were interesting.

The world building was surprisingly easy to pick up, given there wasn’t as much text as I’m used to. I guess pictures really do paint a thousand words if they’re done well. Whether there were words or not I didn’t have to work to figure out how anyone was feeling or what the overall mood was in a specific situation. I did have trouble deciphering a couple of words here and there, but that may be due to reading it on an iPad.

The artwork is stunning. The colour palette is so subdued that each additional colour pops. This is one of the prettiest graphic novels I’ve ever seen and I don’t want it to be over. I need to know what happens to everyone next!

You can view all 20 chapters online at https://www.onasunbeam.com. Please check it out! It’s so good.

Special Feature: If you’re like me and you greedily devour movie and TV series’ special features to glean information about all of the behind the scenes stuff you didn’t know you needed to know, then you’ll be interested to know that the title of this story comes from the Belle & Sebastian song ‘Asleep on a Sunbeam’. You can listen to it here.

Content warnings include bullying and fairly frequent swearing.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As new member Mia gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. Soon, though, Mia reveals her true purpose for joining their ship – to track down her long-lost love.

An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.

The Prince and the Dressmaker – Jen Wang

It felt like my heart grew a few sizes while I was reading this graphic novel. When the dress she makes for Lady Sophia causes a stir at the Royal Spring Ball, Frances is offered a position as a personal seamstress for an unknown client. Her new client turns out to be Crown Prince Sebastian of Belgium, who is trying to keep a secret that he fears will cause his father to disown him.


During the day Prince Sebastian has to meet potential brides with his parents but in the evenings Lady Crystallia is wowing Paris’ fashion world with Frances’ innovative dress designs. Caught between trying to be the Prince his parents, especially his father, expect and who he truly is, Sebastian finds unconditional acceptance and a growing friendship with Frances.

I adored Sebastian immediately. Frances won my heart when she accepted Sebastian without hesitation and she kept winning me over with gems like, “He wasn’t confused about himself. The thing that ruined Sebastian was how afraid he was of what you’d think of him.”

Content warning for a forced outing. Thankfully this is challenged but I expect this content will be painful for some readers.

This is such a gorgeous story of being true to yourself and of acceptance. The illustrations are brilliant and the dresses are stunning. I loved the characters, the friendship, the love story and the resolution. And everything else, except the outing. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read this for the first time. It deserves all the stars!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride – or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia – the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances – one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Zita the Spacegirl #3: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl – Ben Hatke

What a fun way to round out the trilogy! After the huge Legends of Zita the Spacegirl cliffhanger I’ve been keen to know where we’d find Zita at the beginning of this story. Zita is on trial in the Court of Dungeon World, facing a slew of trumped up charges; her heroics in the first two graphic novels twisted into crimes. Poor Mouse appears at her kangaroo court and, shackled in a way that brought to mind Hannibal Lector, he’s been sentenced to death! But wait! Who or what is that mysterious creature in the blue cape that’s overlooking the proceedings?

Bringing back all of my favourites from the first two books and introducing a few new ones, this is the action packed volume that finally answers the question of whether Zita ever returns home to Earth. I don’t think I’d return if I were her because of all of the amazing adventures she’s had and the wonderful friends she’s met along the way, but it’s what she’s dreamed of since the beginning so I couldn’t help cheering her on.

What’s lovely about this story is that you don’t just get to witness Zita saving a friend, an enemy or a world; Zita needs help herself in this one. Thankfully she’s made such an impact previously that there’s no shortage of people/beings/objects willing to lend a hand or whatever is needed to contribute to saving her.

Femur and Raggy, Zita’s dungeon mates, were the comic relief for me and became new favourites.

I also loved that previous favourites including One, Strong-Strong, Randy and Shippy returned.

Like the two previous Zita books the illustrations in this one were brilliant. Although the story could end with this book and currently does, there is potential to keep the story going. While you could argue that this series presents a good case for quit while you’re ahead I’d keep reading if another Zita book magically appeared in front of me.

In what I’ll call the Special Features after Zita’s journey concludes (I’ve been bingeing a lot of TV series recently) there’s a beautiful story of how she came to be. It’s one of those melty heart stories that makes you appreciate Zita even more.

Once again, I have to say that I love my library. They didn’t stock this book but they bought it just because I asked them to. Now they have the whole series, which I plan to borrow again for a reread ASAP!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ben Hatke brings back our intrepid space heroine for another delightful sci-fi/fantasy adventure in this New York Times-Bestselling graphic novel trilogy for middle grade readers.

Zita the Spacegirl has saved planets, battled monsters, and wrestled with interplanetary fame. But she faces her biggest challenge yet in the third and final installment of the Zita adventures. Wrongfully imprisoned on a penitentiary planet, Zita has to plot the galaxy’s greatest jailbreak before the evil prison warden can execute his plan of interstellar domination!

Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-In-Training – Joris Chamblain

Illustrations – Aurélie Neyret

I feel like cheating with this review and just telling you to check out the review Lola wrote, which you can find here. Thank you Lola for already articulating so well what I wanted to say. 😊

So, onto my ramble.

I quite liked the stories of Mr Mysterious in Part One and Ms Mysterious in Part Two. The initially unseen depth of their sweet but sad stories were unexpected, although to be completely honest I felt Cici had no business playing Nancy Drew and interfering in their lives in the first place.

I loved Cici’s inquisitive nature but wasn’t a fan of the sneaky way she went about her investigations. I loved that she cares about people and wants to help once she solves their ‘mystery’ and understands what she can do to help (not that she was asked to help in the first place) but I hated that she spends the rest of her time lying to her mother and using her friends.

Because Cici is so Cici-centric all we know about one of her friends until the very end is that they are a whinger. Seriously, would you want to be friends with someone who can only describe you as a complainer, even if they’re right? It’s not that I hated Cici. A lot of the time I found her endearing and sweet but she really irritated me too. Thankfully she does learn lessons along the way about the way she’s treated her friends and mother.

My brain went a little nutty during the first story when all of the kids are lying to their parents and sneaking off to go hang out in the middle of the bush with a strange old man. Granted, he was a lovely but sad old man and I doubt he would slap a mosquito actively draining all of his blood. He could’ve been a creepy old man though. I know it’s just a story but my adult brain is practically hyperventilating (no, I don’t know how that’s physically possible either) at the thought of sending a message that it’s okay to lie to your parents to secretly meet a stranger in a remote location! Nuttiness aside, I adored the old man in the first story. He was an absolute sweetheart.

Naturally I loved that the scene of the second ‘mystery’ was the local library. Woohoo! Cici manages to solve Ms Mysterious’ mystery the first time she checked out the book that Ms Mysterious has been checking out every week for many years (of course). There’s no romantic hiding in the depths of my icy cold heart but I admit I really liked the love story of Ms Mysterious and her beau.

The illustrations were gorgeous and I loved the soft warm colours used throughout the book. The layout was really well done, with layers showing crayons, pencils (with pencil shavings) and pens laying on top of pages in Cici’s journal that made it seem as though the reader is peeking over her shoulder at the page she’s working on. She’s also pasted in relevant bits and pieces, including postcards from her friends, newspaper articles, letters and photos. The creativity of telling the story through graphic novel format interspersed with journal entries and drawings makes this visually a really interesting book.

I wouldn’t mind revisiting this book again in a few months. I wonder even as I’m writing this if I’ve been a bit harsh on Cici’s Cici-centricity. I’m interested to know if I’ll find her more endearing and less irritating next time. I hope so because the stories are quite good. I’d probably give the stories alone 3.5 stars but because I loved the illustrations so much I’m rounding up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Cici dreams of being a novelist. Her favourite subject: people, especially adults. She’s been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what’s hiding inside them. But now she’s discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colours. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back?

In a graphic novel interwoven with journal notes, scrapbook pieces, and doodles, Cici assembles clues about the odd and wonderful people she’s uncovered, even as she struggles to understand the mundane: her family and friends.

Zita the Spacegirl #2: Legends of Zita the Spacegirl – Ben Hatke

After the events in Zita the Spacegirl Zita has gone from Girl Who Pressed the Red Button to Famous Girl Who Pressed the Red Button. Oh, and she did have a part to play in the whole saving Scriptorius from the apocalyptic asteroid thing.

When an Imprint-o-Tron robot imprints on a poster of Zita, it begins its transformation into Zita Imposter Extraordinaire. Eager for some respite from the adoration of the masses, Zita is only too happy to allow robot Zita to take the glory. While robot Zita soaks up the attention, human Zita and Mouse sneak off to enjoy Lady Madrigal’s circus.

Meanwhile, ambassadors from New Lumponia plead their case for (robot) Zita to save their planet from a swarm of star hearts, which are deadlier, less cutesy and with nastier looking teeth than they sound. Before she knows it real Zita finds herself left behind, branded a criminal and unsure who she can trust.

Along the way she meets plenty of new characters including Madrigal, a gigantic cat with glowing eyes called Glissando and my personal favourite, Shippy. We learn some unexpected backstories for Piper (just don’t call him Whistle Man) and Mouse. Piper also reveals a hidden talent along the way which comes in quite handy.

The illustrations are just as good as the first story and even feature a cameo of my mate Jerry from Zita the Spacegirl. I love the aerial units, the spider and the adorable multiplying Doppelganger. There’s one panel that certainly gives new meaning to heart attack as well.

The best thing about robot Zita is that she can read 147 books straight without needing to stop to eat and she has an eidetic memory. I wish!!

The worst thing about this book? There’s a cliffhanger and I don’t have The Return of Zita the Spacegirl on hand. How am I supposed to move on with my life before I find out if Mouse is okay, if Zita ever returns home and if she does, how she can ever say goodbye to all of her new friends across the galaxy?!

I will not sneak a peek at reviews of the next one to find answers.

I will not sneak a peek at reviews of the next one to find answers …

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Fame comes at a price

Zita must find her way back to earth … but her space adventures have made her a galactic megastar! Who can you trust when your true self is overshadowed by your public image? And to make things worse … Zita’s got a robot double making trouble – while wearing her face!

Zita the Spacegirl – Ben Hatke

Why have I never heard of this series before?! Have I been hiding under a meteoroid? This was so much fun!!!

When Zita and her friend Joseph find a hole in the earth that wasn’t there before, they have to check it out. There’s a meteoroid with something inside it. Something that has a red button. Of course Zita is going to press it! A portal appears and something grabs Joseph and pulls him through. After some mild freaking out Zita follows him through the portal into another world with a multitude of alien species. Or perhaps she’s the alien?

Zita witnesses Joseph being kidnapped and is determined to find him and return them both to Earth. Along the way she meets new friends including One, Mouse, Strong-Strong and Randy. Together they journey against the clock to find and save Joseph, for there’s a countdown happening in this world. There’s only three days left before an asteroid will destroy it!

This is one of those graphic novels that has few words but is big in story and scale. The illustrations of all of the new creatures Zita comes across are generally either cute, amusing or downright creepy. I love a ‘girl on an epic quest’ story and this one is action packed. I smiled throughout the story and can’t wait for the next instalment.

All of the copies at my local library are on loan so I have to wait to find out what happens next! I’ll do my best to not read any reviews of Legends of Zita the Spacegirl because I want to go into it the same way I did with this one – loving the cover and knowing nothing at all about the story.

Reread 18 May 2018

Here we are almost 4 months after I first adored this graphic novel and I still haven’t read Legends of Zita the Spacegirl. What’s wrong with me?! (Please don’t answer that!) The bright side is that I decided to reread this one so I remembered where I left Zita and her friends.

I had so much fun during my reread. I appreciated and paid more attention to the details this time around, including the wonderful expressions on Zita’s face throughout the story. I loved her wide eyed OMG, the button worked! expression

and giggled at the “BLRG!” horror of raising herself from the ground covered in giant snail slime.

Character wise, I had completely forgotten about dopey Jerry who joyfully declares the good news that “In three days an asteroid is gonna explode us all!” to attempt to fix Zita’s leaking eyes. The monster wearing the “The End is Nigh” sandwich board is wonderful. I adore all of the monsters featured with the chapter number signs although I’m quite partial to chapter two’s sod on legs with leaves on its back and bugs hanging out with it. I think I need a plush Strong-Strong to cuddle.

The illustrations are as engaging as they were when I first saw them. What surprised me during this read was how quickly I connected with each newly introduced character. Within a couple of panels I was all in, which is pretty impressive considering that there are entire novels where the author doesn’t manage to connect me to a single character. Overall I think I enjoyed the story even more the second time and would happily read it again.

Favourite Invention – Doorpaste, which would be useful in countless Looney Tunes cartoons.

Favourite Line

“My favourite food from the meat category is sugar.”

(from the Early Zita Sketches page, not the story)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Zita’s life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of an eye.

When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don’t even phase her. Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita’s quest.

Zita the Spacegirl is a fun, captivating tale of friendship and redemption from Flight veteran Ben Hatke. It also has more whimsical, eye-catching, Miyazaki-esque monsters than you can shake a stick at.