Review of Ink Girls

Ink Girls Ink Girls
by Marieke Nijkamp; illus. by Sylvia Bi
Intermediate, Middle School    Greenwillow    288 pp.
11/23    9780063027114    $24.99
Paper ed.  9780063027107    $15.99
e-book ed.  9780063027121    $10.99

This energetic and optimistic graphic novel overflows with collectivism and an activist spirit. In the fictional world of Siannerra (inspired by Italian city-states of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance), Mestra Aronne prints and distributes avvisi—news-filled pamphlets—for her community. She also serves as mentor and caregiver for apprentice Cinzia, who walks using a cane. When one of the pamphlets informs the community that their magistrate is lying and stealing, guards show up to arrest both printer and apprentice. Cinzia escapes, aided by Contessina Elena, the daughter of the principessa and niece of the corrupt magistrate. Rumors about Elena abound (people say she is “odd” and unfit to rule), but Cinzia and Elena become fast friends. When the magistrate announces that Mestra Aronne will be hanged for treason, the girls—alongside like-minded allies—race to locate the evidence against the magistrate and distribute the truth to the people. Friendship, family, home, and political risk-taking are thoughtfully presented through well-paced dialogue and inset boxes showcasing characters’ inner thoughts. Line work is clear and consistent, especially in jam-packed spreads and in sun-drenched red-orange hues of chaotic city scenes. Atmosphere is further delineated through swirling song lyrics and chants, spread in cursive across expertly placed panels. This lively, inclusive, and engaging story is also a timely reminder of the value of a free press.

From the November/December 2023 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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