Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novels – Serena Blasco

Translator – Tanya Gold

This graphic novel was my introduction to Enola Holmes, Sherlock and Mycroft’s younger sister. Enola’s birth was a scandal and she’s not planning on conforming to society’s expectations of women anytime soon. She conducts herself in a fashion most unladylike by refusing to wear the appropriate dress length for her age and, horror of horrors, climbing trees. 

Her mother’s disappearance on the occasion of her fourteenth birthday brings Enola’s brothers out of the woodwork. Visiting Ferndell Hall for the first time in ten years, they quickly determine that the most appropriate course of action is to send Enola to boarding school.

This goes against Enola’s sensibilities and those of her currently absent mother, so before she embarks on the very ladylike occupation of learning how to be a “houseplant”, Enola absconds to London. Smart girl, our Enola.

Sherlock and Mycroft are clearly products of their time and probably think they have Enola’s best interests at heart. However, their brotherly love leaves a lot to be desired. 

Leave her be, Mycroft. She is too young and her head is too small for her body. We can’t expect too much of her. 

Enola is able to use society’s propensity to underestimate women to her advantage, relying on her wits and penchant for disguises to hide in plain sight. 

Brother Sherlock may be a famous detective but Enola gives him a run for his money in these adaptations of the first three books of Nancy Springer’s The Enola Holmes Mysteries. Enola takes it upon herself to solve The Case of the Missing MarquessThe Case of the Left-Handed Lady and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets.

I enjoyed the watercolour illustrations, which felt even more appropriate when I learned that’s the medium Enola’s mother uses.

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I haven’t met Enola’s mother yet but I love her already. She’s a suffragist who’s schooled her daughter in activities that will be useful, as opposed to those that will facilitate her transformation into a houseplant.

Enola’s adaptability and attention to detail are aided by the tools her mother left her, primarily a book on the language of flowers and a handbound notebook full of coded messages. 

Enola is “alone” spelled backwards.
Mum and her love of coded messages.
Could it be a coincidence? 

I loved the clever use of flowers to convey messages and the inclusion of excerpts from Enola’s secret notebook at the end of each case.

Enola’s inquiring mind and indomitable spirit made me want to spend more time with her. I look forward to hanging out with Enola as she continues to subvert her allotted position in nineteenth century London in future graphic novel adaptations. 

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I’ve already ordered the first book in Nancy Springer’s series from the library.

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

A graphic novel adaptation of the hit books that inspired the Netflix film! Sherlock Holmes’ brilliant, strong-willed younger sister takes centre stage in this delightfully drawn graphic novel based on Nancy Springer’s bestselling mystery series.

14-year-old Enola Holmes wakes on her birthday to discover that her mother has disappeared from the family’s country manor, leaving only a collection of flowers and a coded message book. With Sherlock and Mycroft determined to ship her off to a boarding school, Enola escapes, displaying a cleverness that even impresses the elder Holmes. But nothing prepares her for what lies ahead…

Book One in the series includes three thrilling mysteries: The Case of the Missing Marquess, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets. At the back of the book, readers can explore a portfolio of pages from Enola’s secret notebook!

The Greatest Thing – Sarah Winifred Searle

In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Sarah Winifred Searle introduces us to Win. Their two best friends have enrolled at a new school so Win is starting the tenth grade alone. Fortunately for Win, they have art and it’s through their independent study with Mrs Fransson that they meet April and Oscar.

I found the struggles of all three characters relatable. This could have been quite a dark story and it does touch on some difficult topics, specifically those relating to sexuality, identity and body image.

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There’s an exploration of mental health and the feelings of being alone and not fitting in. 

I mean, I don’t belong here. I feel like I work so hard to keep afloat but no one sees or hears me. 

The friendship between Win, April and Oscar makes all the difference.

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Their friendship isn’t always easy and things don’t always work out as planned but their connection gave this story the injection of hope that it needed. The zine they worked on together, which is included in its entirety, was heartbreaking and beautiful. 

While I connected with some of what Win and April were struggling with, it was Oscar who stole my heart. I absolutely adored him. 

I wish I could hear the song Win and Oscar listen to. I loved the illustrations and the colour palette. 

Teenage me would have read this graphic novel so much that it would have disintegrated in my hands. Adult me is definitely keen for a reread.

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To see myself through your eyes, as I look to someone who loves me … it has simply been the greatest thing. 

Content warnings include biphobia, eating disorders, fatphobia, mental health and self harm.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s the first day of Grade Ten, and Winifred is going to reinvent herself. Now that her two best (and only) friends have transferred to a private school, Win must navigate high school on her own.

Luckily, she isn’t alone for long. In art class, she meets Oscar and April. They don’t look or act like the typical teenagers in her town: they’re creative, a little rebellious and seem comfortable in their own skin in a way that Win can only dream of. 

But even though Winifred is breaking out of her shell, there’s one secret she can’t bear to admit to April and Oscar, or even to herself – and this lie threatens everything.

Win needs to face her own truths, but she doesn’t need to do it alone. Through the healing power of clandestine sleepovers, op-shopping and zine publishing, Win finds and accepts what it means to be herself.

Sherlock Bones #3: Sherlock Bones and the Art and Science Alliance – Renée Treml

Bones, a skeletal tawny frogmouth, and Watts, a stuffed blue Indian ringneck parrot, are exhibits in the state Natural History Museum. Grace is a raccoon whose love of chocolate makes her exceedingly relatable. She’s also the only one of the three who needs to breathe. 

It’s a good thing we’ve visited them today because there’s a new mystery to solve. 

Really? A mystery? I love mysteries!

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There’s a new exhibit opening tomorrow called Art & Science Alliance and rumour has it that one of the paintings is haunted. Luckily, Bones, Watts and Grace are on the case. 

They’re going to need plenty of courage because apparently this ghost hisses. They may also need someone to help them pronounce ‘macabre’ and perhaps a dictionary so they can figure out what it means. They’re definitely going to need some chocolate (well, Grace and I do).

As usual, I loved the illustrations and accidental learning. I didn’t find this mystery as funny as the previous two but I did appreciate the inclusion of a drop bear in the new exhibit. 

Nivlac, who we met in Sherlock Bones and the Sea-Creature Feature, used their very specific and entirely awesome skillset to assist our mystery solving trio.

I hadn’t thought this before but now I can’t think of anything else; Bones does kind of resemble a stick insect wearing a sombrero. 

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I’m looking forward to my next visit to the Natural History Museum. 

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The intrepid Sherlock Bones and his quietly funny sidekick, Watts, and their animal friends are back to sneak around the museum and solve any mysteries that come their way. Full of fun, friendship and fascinating facts, this fabulous graphic novel is perfect for young readers who love adventure, mystery and a little bit of mayhem.

Hi there, I’m Sherlock Bones – tawny frogmouth skeleton, chief sleuth and star of all museum-related investigations!

Today is an exciting day because the museum has a new exhibit – and a new mystery!

Together with my partners, the ever-brilliant Watts and talking bundle of fur Grace, I’m here to track down the ghost that’s destroying the museum.

You might not be able to hear Watts, because, technically, she’s a stuffed parrot, but I always know what she’s thinking.

And right now she’s thinking: Can we solve the mystery of the haunted painting?

Sorceline – Sylvia Douyé

Illustrations – Paola Antista

Sorceline’s apprenticeship with Professor Balzar is just a teensy bit more interesting than anything you’ve got planned for summer. She’s on the Isle of Vorn to study cryptozoology. 

“It’s the study of cryptids: amazing creatures that most humans don’t think exist.” 

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She and her fellow students will be learning how to heal magical creatures and one of them, the best one (nothing like some healthy competition), will become the Professor’s assistant. And, boy, does he need one.

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In a world where unicorns, vampires, gorgons and zombie pixies all exist, there’s plenty of healing to be done. There’s also time for some mysterious goings on. Students are disappearing and Sorceline, who somehow has the ability to identify creatures simply by looking at them, thinks it’s all her fault. 

“Don’t ever doubt your incredible gifts, Sorceline!” 

Translated from French, this graphic novel combines the first three volumes of Sorceline’s story. I really enjoyed the world building. The story itself felt disjointed at times but, because I was so busy drooling over the pictures, I didn’t really mind. Paola Antista’s illustrations are absolutely incredible, particularly those that showcase the scenery.

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Beware the cliffhanger. I have so many questions that are demanding answers so will be travelling back to the Isle of Vorn as soon as possible. 

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

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Welcome to the Isle of Vorn, where mythical creatures roam free and only the brightest students are invited to study them. In Book 1 of this riveting new middle grade graphic novel series, a gifted young cryptozoologist-in-training must learn to tame powerful beasts – including her own inner demons.

For as long as she can remember, Sorceline has had a knack for the study of mythical creatures. Now a student at Professor Archibald Balzar’s prestigious school of cryptozoology, she’s eager to test her skills and earn a spot as one of Balzar’s apprentices.

But for all her knowledge of gorgons, vampires, and griffins, Sorceline is mystified by her fellow humans. While she excels in her studies, she quickly clashes with her classmates, revealing her fiery temper.

When one of her rivals suddenly disappears, Sorceline must set aside her anger and join the quest to find her. But the mystery only deepens, leading Sorceline on a journey far darker and more personal than she expected …

Heart Takes the Stage – Steenz

I’d never heard of the Heart of the City comics before so this collection was my introduction to Heart Lamarr and her friends. 

I liked Kat. 

“Friendship is nothing if you don’t stand up for each other.” 

I also liked nerds Charlotte and Dean. Their problems are understandable, like worrying that the other is nerdier. And Charlotte’s dog is called Ripley, so you have to love her for that.

The thing is, though, I didn’t like Heart. 

“Sorry to interrupt this weird-off, but let’s get to how your skill can help me.” 

In this collection, Heart really wants to get her ears pierced. She also wants a part in the school play.

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She also attends a sleepover, babysits and hosts a Halloween party. I found Heart most relatable when she was binge watching TV.

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I loved the fortune telling bread and I may need to join the Atlantic Paranormal Society.

I would probably want to hang out with Heart’s friends again but I’m not especially keen on crossing paths with her. 

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This first book collection of Heart of the City comics by the strip’s new creator, Steenz, is packed with outstanding art, a diverse cast of characters, and engaging, positive storylines about friendship, pop culture, ghost stories, and a wide range of real-world issues. 

Heart Lamarr is a girl with big dreams who lives in Philadelphia with her single mum. She has her sights set on a life of theatre, but she runs into plenty of drama off-stage, too. Luckily, her best friends Dean, Kat, and Charlotte form a stellar supporting cast to help Heart navigate the challenging world of school plays, cliques, rumours, and everything else middle school throws at them.

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea #4: Bats What Friends Are For – Renée Treml

Just when I didn’t think this series could get any bat-ter… 

Ollie the owl is looking for Bea the bunny, but can’t find her anywhere. Hanging around, though, is Kimmee, a bat who loves jokes.

Ollie and Kimmee have a “WHEELY fun” time together. They even join forces to tackle a mysterious mystery. 

When the two new friends finally hoppen upon Bea, Bea isn’t very hoppy to see them. Bea’s not convinced the Super Team has room for one more, especially someone who clearly already has a bond with her best friend.

This series focuses on friendship. The friends encourage one another, laugh and have fun together (with plenty of knock knock jokes and puns), and support each other to face and solve problems. 

It can be scary for kids when one of their friends makes a new friend. This book acknowledges that while also inviting them to be open to making new friends themselves.

Kimmee is a great new addition to the Super Team, which also includes CeeCee the otter, Pedro the chameleon, Sera the deer and Simon the squirrel. 

As I’ve come to expect from Renée Treml’s books, the illustrations are Bea-utiful. The characters are expressive and Kimmee looks absolutely adorable in their beanie.

This was a bat-tastic read. You bat-cha Bea-lieve owl be hanging out for the next book.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Some-BUNNY is missing! HOO could it Bea?

Ollie makes a BAT-tastic new friend, but Bea’s not very HOPPY about it. Can Ollie show Bea that there’s OWLways room for one more friend? 

Join Ollie and Bea in their joyful playtime adventures. The perfect book for young readers who love to laugh.

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea #3: Wise Quackers – Renée Treml

Ollie the owl is too old to play with stuffed toys. Well, that’s what he’d like to Bea-lieve anyway. Then he meets Bea the bunny’s “bestest, most favourite-est stuffed toy”, Duckie.

Bea hops off home to get her mask so they can play superheroes, leaving Duckie in Ollie’s capable hands. Except Ollie accidentally sorta kinda takes playing with stuffed ducks to a whole new level. 

Now there’s a mystery to solve but if the Super Team are going to quack this case, Ollie is going to have to own up to what really happened.

Ollie and Bea are joined by the other Super Team members, CeeCee the otter, Pedro the chameleon (who speaks Spanish), Sera the deer and Simon the squirrel, as they work to solve this case.

This is a fun series that majors on friendship. Each story has an age appropriate message about being a good friend. 

In this story, Ollie makes a mistake, which he initially tries to hide from his friends. When he finally tells them the truth, his friends all work together to help him fix the problem. Teamwork prevails, Ollie’s friends don’t hold his mistake against him and there’s a hoppy ending.

Puns and jokes abound on this series and the characters are so loveable. I particularly enjoy the illustrations, which clearly show the emotions of the characters, and the colours used. 

I would have adored this series as a kid. Adult me is just as impressed. Of course, I had to reread the first two books before beginning this one and they were just as good as the first time I read them. 

Bring on the bat-tastic book 4!

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ollie has a mystery to solve, and Bea suspects FOWL play!

Ollie is OWL grown up and doesn’t play with stuffed toys – but then where did Bea’s toy go? It might take a DUCKtective to help QUACK this case!

Join Ollie and Bea and their delightful friends. The perfect book for young readers who love to laugh.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #15: Unicorn Selfies – Dana Simpson

This collection begins with Marigold and Phoebe attending the unveiling of their brand new clubhouse, which wouldn’t be complete if they weren’t pixie punked. Now the clubhouse is finished, all they need to do is figure out what kind of club they are.

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A good portion of this collection focuses on Marigold preparing for and attending her family reunion. Phoebe and Marigold attend the reunion in style because unicorn and once there Marigold catches up with some familiar faces. She also meets some of her family for the first time.

When the reunion is not the focus, Marigold makes Phoebe’s problems disappear and Phoebe helps Marigold with her self help book. Marigold’s shadow goes to the dark side and a conspiracy theory is tested. 

In keeping with the honour that is being Marigold’s best friend, Marigold bestows upon Phoebe her unicorn name. This is also the collection where we learn the number 5 is a dragon called Jim who “rains death from above”. 

Phoebe’s powers of observation are called into question.

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More than once.

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Because so much time was spent in the lead up to and attendance of Marigold’s family reunion, there wasn’t quite as much variety in this collection. I enjoyed finally getting to meet more of Marigold’s family but I missed Dakota, who was only mentioned in passing. Max also only had a small part to play. 

I always enjoy hanging out with Marigold and Phoebe, “knower of unicorn secrets”. I’m looking forward to the next collection already.

Book in a book: Phoebe reads The Neverending Story. I also attempted to read this as a nine year old but couldn’t understand at the time why the book didn’t replicate the movie exactly, not realising the book came first. Note to self: finish reading The Neverending Story.

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

Phoebe Howell and her best friend, the dazzling unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, have all kinds of exciting things planned for the summer. Their adventures include constructing a secret clubhouse with Phoebe’s friend Max (enlisting the help of some magic pixies along the way) and preparing for a trip to Marigold’s unicorn family reunion. Along the way, readers will meet all kinds of new characters, learn what magic spells are best avoided, and have all kinds of sparkling unicorn fun.

Disney Manga: Beauty and the Beast – The Beast’s Tale – Mallory Reaves (Adapter)

Illustrations – Studio DICE

Colours – Gianluca Papi

I read Belle’s Tale, the companion to this story, first and it didn’t live up to my expectations, so they were much lower when I began reading the Beast’s perspective. Although I have historically focused most of my attention on Belle’s point of view (her reading habits are so relatable), being able to see things from the Beast’s was a refreshing change. 

Sure, it’s still a story of an angry young man imprisoning a bookish young woman, who then falls in love with her jailer… And this manga-style graphic novel is based on the live-action adaptation that I couldn’t get into instead of the animated one that I was obsessed with as a kid. And Mrs Potts is just as creepy here as she was in Belle’s Tale

But I quite enjoyed this one. It includes some of the Beast’s backstory and his thoughts on how his life has played out so far. 

While Belle’s story was coloured in tones that matched her optimism, the Beast’s story begins as dark as his moods and gradually brightens as Belle’s impact on him grows.

The proportions are variable. When the Beast first captures Belle’s father, the Beast looks colossal. I don’t claim to understand art so this may be a way of highlighting the Beast’s power, but it looked odd, especially when compared to the next page where the proportions are more realistic. 

I absolutely loved the front covers of the two tales, which joined together form a single image. It works both from a marketing perspective and a visual one. I know I’d have to buy a matching set.

The cursed (and I use this term lightly) object I most need in my life is the book that takes escapism to a whole new level.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and TOKYOPOP for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In Disney’s live-action film Beauty and the Beast, Belle, a bright, beautiful, and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realise the kind heart and soul of the true Prince inside. Dark, cool, muted colours show the Beast’s pessimistic view of the world in this full-colour manga-style graphic novel, which explores the Beast’s struggle as he tries to move on from his past and learn what it is to love.

Disney Manga: Beauty and the Beast – Belle’s Tale – Mallory Reaves (Adapter)

Illustrations – Studio DICE

Colours – Gabriella Sinopoli

I was obsessed with the animated Beauty and the Beast film as a kid. I loved Mrs Potts and Chip. I sang along with all of the songs. I fantasised about living in the library.

I couldn’t get into the live-action adaptation. That’s the version this manga-style graphic novel is based on. There were some scenes I wasn’t familiar with because of this but that didn’t impact how I felt about the story. 

I enjoyed being privy to Belle’s thoughts throughout the story. However, while I was really keen to read this manga adaptation (and its companion, The Beast’s Tale), I didn’t fall in love with it like I’d planned. 

It wasn’t always immediately clear which text was supposed to be read first. Some of the book was clearly intended to be read manga style, from right to left, but other panels made more sense when I read them from left to right.

While some panels were defined and clear, others were blurry. I read an advanced copy, though, so this may not be representative of the final version. 

Sometimes the main characters’ faces were quite detailed and other times they weren’t. Mrs Potts definitely resembled the live-action version more than her animated self (which I loved), but she came across a bit creepy at times.

I will still be reading The Beast’s Tale, but my expectations aren’t as high anymore.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and TOKYOPOP for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In Disney’s live-action film Beauty and the Beast, Belle, a bright, beautiful, and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realise the kind heart and soul of the true Prince inside. Soft, warm, bright colours show Belle’s optimistic view of the world in this full-colour manga-style graphic novel, which explores Belle’s innermost thoughts as she learns that true beauty comes from within.