Audrey's Magic Nine

illus. by Courtney Huddleston Tracy Bailey. 144p. Penny Farthing. Dec. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780984214358.
Gr 3–6—This webcomic—turned—graphic novel follows Audrey, a young black orphan who is rescued from a neglectful and abusive foster home. Audrey is soon adopted by a suburban white couple who want to give her an "excellent life." Her schedule fills up with piano, gymnastics, and French lessons, leaving little time for Audrey's one true passion: drawing. But when her toy puppet, Asa, comes to life and tells Audrey about how he and eight other beings (the titular "magic nine") were banished to Earth from their world by an evil witch, Audrey sketches out a plan to help. The narrative seamlessly moves between omniscient visual narration (rendered in full color) and Audrey's personal sketches (rendered in black-and-white). Audrey's visions of her life are more whimsical, often including magical creatures or breaking the limitations of the panels. These fanciful touches, with the added humor of the larger-than-life characters and fantastical plot, allow readers multiple ways to connect to the text. Additionally, the gentle mockery of the white savior narrative gives this a refreshing take on the magical orphan tale. The ending is a bit abrupt, but the book includes four additional short bonus comics to provide some characters' backstory and build upon the text's vibrant settings.
VERDICT A promising series opener that will fit nicely alongside Ben Hatke's Mighty Jack and TenNapel's Cardboard.
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