By Ru Xu
Graphix, $12.99 (softcover), $24.99 (hardcover)
Ages 8-12 years, grade level 3-7
It’s a wonderful thing when someone’s first graphic novel is so jam-packed with big ideas realized so well on an individual character level.
Blue is an orphan newsboy who’s found an adoptive family of those who work for the paper. But if they knew she was a girl, she fears she’d lose the life she’s built.
She’s on the streets most days, fighting rival newsboys, in a city in its tenth year of war. When she breaks into a mysterious loft, she finds a dashing inventor and winds up as his apprentice.
Then she meets Crow, a mysterious boy with a hidden face and an attraction to birds. There’s a strong feel here of Depression-era movies about spunky survivors, translated into a steampunk war-time city. Using so many influences in such varied ways surprisingly gives Newsprints a modern, mash-up feel, although Xu makes it all new, creating a real page-turner. There’s so much here to read and think about!
The book has comedy, adventure, science fiction, questions of identity and acceptance, rebellion, friendship, determination to do the right thing, and healthy doses of self-reliance and questioning of authority. Xu’s art is dynamic, always with something exciting happening, although that excitement might come from emotion as much as movement. The soft pastel coloring gives everything a timeless feel that suits the content.
With so much going on, there’s a ton of re-read value, particularly as readers learn who’s really on which side. It can be discouraging to learn that the grown-ups aren’t always right, particularly when they want to force an AI boy who only wants to fly into a war machine. Blue wants freedom of choice for herself and her friend, but sometimes society isn’t ready for that yet. With well-done stories like these, though, that will change.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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