Girl Haven

Oni. Feb. 2021. 160p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781620108659.
Gr 4-8–When Ash befriends the members of Marsha P. Johnson Middle School’s Pride Club at lunch, she doesn’t expect the encounter to lead to an otherworldly adventure. Ash, who was assigned male at birth, has been thinking that she feels more like a girl, but she doesn’t yet share this information with her new friends Eleanor, Junebug, and Chloe. Ash invites the gang over to her house to show off her mother’s studio; before mysteriously disappearing, Ash’s mom had created artwork and stories about a magical, all-girl land called Koretris. While dressing up and playing, the kids are unexpectedly transported to Koretris, where a war is underway between the good citizens and the evil Scourge. Could Ash’s mother still be alive somewhere in this world, and could Ash be the chosen one Koretris has been waiting for? While Ash hopes that being in girls-only Koretris will affirm her identity, the appearance of rebel boys sends her into confusion once more. There is much to love here: an endearing group of protagonists, a lively fantasy realm, and a strong message of support for embracing and expressing one’s identity—as Ash learns, “The accident of your birth is just the first page in that story. Your heart writes the rest.” The full-color illustrations are cartoonish and expressive, and characters’ emotions and inner turmoil are palpable. Back matter on identity and pronouns support the message of the story. Ash and Eleanor are white, while Junebug and Chloe are dark-skinned.
VERDICT Spunky, sweet, and full of magical high jinks, this is a first purchase wherever fantasy adventure comics are popular, and especially where titles by Noelle Stevenson and K. O’Neill circulate well.

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