Manu: A Graphic Novel

Manu: A Graphic Novel
Age Range
Release Date
October 19, 2021
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Set at a magical school for girls, a funny and heartwarming middle-grade graphic novel adventure about friendship, defying expectations, and finding your place.
Manu and her best friend, Josefina, live at a magical school for girls, and Manu is always getting into trouble. The headmistress believes that Manu has the potential to help people with her magic, but Manu would rather have fun than fall in line. One day, a prank goes seriously wrong, and Josefina gets angry and wishes for Manu's magic to disappear... and it does. Manu uses a dangerous spell to restore it, but it makes her magic too powerful and nearly impossible to control. Great power comes at a cost, and it may be a price that Manu isn't able to pay!

Editor review

1 review
Magical Academy in a Graphic Novel
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Manu has lived at a magical school for girls that is staffed by nuns since they found her as an abandoned infant and took her in. There has always something different about her, but most of the nuns put up with her irrepressible behavior since she has very advanced magical skills, which are considered a gift from the saints. When the new school year starts, Manu is back in her usual form, creating a mango that grows and then explodes allover the school. Her best friend, Josephina, is angry that Manu has caused a mess, and wishes that the saints would take her friend's powers away. Eventually, Manu realizes that she is having problems with her powers blinking out, all because of Josephina's curse. The sisters can't help her, although they do find a work order-- a potion she needs to rub behind her ears that smells horrible! Her classmates make fun of her, so when the sisters must travel to the city to provide magical healing to ayoung boy, she begs to go. When the sisters exorcise a demon from the boy, the demon asks Manu if she is "one of them". This, combined with a book on black magic that she finds in the library, encourages Manu to try to rid herself of the curse. Of course, this rarely ends well, but aided by Mother Dolores' amulet, Manu and Josephina try to make things right, and learn a lot about Manu's background while doing so.
Good Points
"Academy" books are a subgenre of magical realism that has great appeal for young readers, who imagine themselves in magical schools like Hogwarts, the Magisterium, Carthak University, Bloor's Academy or Wizard's Hall. While the lessons and classes aren't described in detail, we do get a good feel for some of the kinds of magic the girls are taught. Santa Dominga Academy is the first that I can remember being described in a graphic novel. This adds a lot of visual detail to the school, so we can seethe uniforms, the lush grounds, and the nuns in their stark habits. We also get some good interpretations of goat like demons, not to mention exploding mangoes.

Even though Manu is a challenging friend to have, Josephina stands by her side, apologizing early on for cursing her friend, and doing everything that she can to help her. The sisters are very involved in the students' lives, and care a lot for Manu. When we finally see the whole history of how Manu came to be at Santa Dominga, this makes a littler more sense. I am curious to see, if there is a second book, how Manu and Josephina's relationship progresses.

The colors in the few pages that had them in the ARC were primarily greens, yellows, and browns, which gave a nice connection of nature, especially when it came to the setting of the school and also some of the creatures that weave in and out of the story. I'd love to see the owls in full color. Readers who want more magic in their graphic novels will enjoy this one, which is similar to Layne's Beetle and the Hollow Bones, Aldridge's Estranged, Steinkellner's The Okay Witch or Ostertag's Witch Boy or The Girl From the Sea.
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