Review of Garlic & the Vampire

Garlic & the Vampire
by Bree Paulsen; illus. by the author
Intermediate    Quill Tree/HarperCollins    160 pp.    g
9/21    978-0-06-299509-4    $22.99
Paper ed.  978-0-06-299508-7    $12.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-299510-0    $9.99

In this silly-spooky graphic novel for readers just venturing into middle-grade books, anthropomorphic veggie and fruit folk, having been brought to life by Witch Agnes, run a farm and sell (non-anthropomorphic) crops at a village market. Readers quickly learn the characters’ personalities: Garlic, anxious and stressed out, is tenderly cared for by Carrot and resists invitations to step out of her comfort zone. “Nope, no adventures for me. I love gardening. It’s nice and safe.” When smoke starts coming out of what was assumed to be a vacant castle’s chimney, Witch Agnes confirms everyone’s suspicions: there is a vampire living there. Given her kind’s vampire-resisting status, Garlic is volunteered (not by choice) to investigate the situation. Coached by Witch Agnes on all things vampire-hunting, and paired with curmudgeonly Celery, Garlic embarks on a not-at-all-scary adventure with a satisfying resolution. Both art and text are well paced, and humor abounds. Fashionable farm attire (think overalls and aprons) and apt slang phrases such as “Oh grapes” and “Cheese ’n’ chives!” contribute to successful world-building. Speech balloons in various colors and shapes showcase characters’ emotions and tones of voice, and bright motion lines pop atop dark autumnal hues and thick outlines. Especially notable is the cartoonist’s playful exploration of scale and perspective — as well as the story’s lighthearted approach to risk-taking, caretaking, and social-emotional growth.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is a teacher-librarian at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. 

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