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BEETLE & THE HOLLOWBONES by Aliza Layne Kirkus Star


by Aliza Layne ; illustrated by Aliza Layne

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5344-4153-8
Publisher: Atheneum

This splashy fantasy graphic novel blends rollicking adventure with inclusive teen themes.

Though bustling with goblins, witches, ghosts, and skeletons, this beautifully drawn graphic novel addresses important questions facing even mortal kids. It tells the story of Beetle, a young goblin and aspiring witch who is torn between hanging out at the mall with pal Blob Ghost and serious study. When childhood friend Kat Hollowbone returns to Beetle’s town to apprentice with her sorceress aunt, it disrupts Beetle’s friendship with Blob Ghost as well as Beetle’s ideas about identity and relationships. The story quickly develops urgency as Kat’s aunt emerges as a villain intent on demolishing the mall, thereby endangering Blob Ghost, who is bound to that location. Layne’s renderings of her paranormal cast are highly evocative. Green-skinned Beetle has large, pointy ears and a tufted tail; skeletal Aunt Hollowbones has a spindly bird skull for a head. Climactic action scenes are expertly rendered. Diversity is a strength in this female-driven text, which features a tenderly portrayed LGBTQ+ love story between Kat and Beetle. Wise older women act as mentors, body diversity is casually positive, and Blob Ghost uses they/them pronouns throughout. Amid the fantasy elements, Beetle, Kat, and Blob Ghost text, video chat, post pictures online, and look at one another’s social media feeds—and Beetle is forced, grumbling, to take the bus to the mall.

This inclusive fantasy adventure passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.

(Graphic fantasy. 10-14)