Mighty Jack, by Ben Hatke (Sept. 2016, First Second), $22.99, ISBN: 9781626722651
Recommended for ages 9+
Jack is home for the summer, taking care of his autistic sister, Maddy, while his mom works two jobs to make ends meet. Maddy doesn’t talk often, but when she does, it’s about something that she’s passionate about – and she’s passionate about the box of seeds she discovers at a flea market. Before Jack knows what he’s agreed to, he’s traded his mom’s car for the seeds. Maddy’s happy, but Mom is not.
The seeds are planted, and a magical garden grows, delighting Maddy and their neighbor, Lilly, until things get a little out of hand. When a dragon appears one night, telling Jack that there’s evil in the heart of the garden, Jack is faced with tough decisions and their consequences.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love Ben Hatke’s books. From Zita the Spacegirl to Little Robot, to his storybooks (Julia’s House for Lost Creatures and Nobody Likes a Goblin), I love his very human characters – even when they’re a little something other than human. He brings the magical garden to life with vibrant greens, reds, yellows and purples, and his dragon is beautiful and menacing, all at once. Hatke weaves a very real story about a struggling family into his fantasy tale, and that’s where his strength lies: making the everyday extraordinary.
This is a definite add to your graphic novel bookshelf, and you’ll find yourself wondering when the next volume is due out. Because there has to be one, right? After that ending? Don’t leave me hanging, Ben!
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