Review | ¡¡Manu!!
By Kelly Fernández
Scholastic, October 2021
Ages 9 and up (Grades 3 and up)
Manu and her best friend Josefina go to an all-girls magic school on the Island of Santa Dominga. While Josefina has a wealthy and loving family back home, Manu has been raised in the monastery, with the nuns, and knows little about where she came from. Rumors always flew that she is a demon child, but no one knows for sure.
Manu has always had difficulty controlling her magic. The other girls don’t like her. If it wasn’t for Josefina, she would have no friends.
Things go awry when a curse is placed on Manu, and she cannot use her magic without applying a potion each day that has a horrendous odor. When Manu tries to coax a demon using a library book on Black Magic to restore the magic, the demon demands something in return and takes control of Manu. Now everyone is certain that her origins are demonic. Only Mother Dolores and Josefina have enough faith in Manu’s goodness to find her and to exorcise the demon.
The interesting intertwining of magic and religion makes this a unique read for middle-grade students. The author/artist describes in her note how both worlds were entwined into her childhood. Despite the wrapping of adventure, fantasy, and a bit of realism, we have a story about self-acceptance, friendship, and kindness to others and ourselves. There is much meat buried behind the adventure about a girl who gets tangled into the web of black magic and loses control. There is great fodder for discussion here.
The artwork is simple yet full of action. The soft color palette, heavy on the grays of the girls’ uniforms and the greens of the lush colors of the forest, balances out the dense action and demons with a peaceful feeling.
If you haven’t already added this to your latest book order, add it in. This will find a grateful audience.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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