Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Foiled, by Jane Yolen - a graphic novel full of twists and turns (ages 9 to 14)

The tweens and young teens I know eat up graphic novels faster than candy, devouring each one I bring to the library. They especially like graphic novels that combine fantasy elements, action and intrigue. It's no wonder that they have loved Foiled, by Jane Yolen. As one student said to me yesterday, "I love stories where it's just a regular kid who discovers that the world around them isn't quite as regular as they thought it was." That fits this story perfectly. Nothing is quite as regular as Aliera expects it to be.
by Jane Yolen
illustrated by Mike Cavallaro
NY: First Second, 2010
ages 9 - 14
available on Amazon and at your local public library
Aliera Carstairs’ life is fairly regular. Sure, her fencing hobby is a bit unusual, but her school routine is nothing out of the ordinary. She goes to a small high school in New York City, with all of the usual cliques: the jocks, the goths, the nerds and the preps. Aliera's fine being alone, until a new boy shows up at school - Avery Castle. “Prince Charming all the way.”
Aliera is stunned when Avery asks her out on a date. When she meets him at Grand Central Station, the world suddenly starts spinning out of control. At first, Aliera's world is shown in monotone greys because she is color blind. But at the train station, Aliera discovers that with her fencing mask on, she can see a world full of color, full of fairies and dragons and demons. It's a dangerous world, and one in which she has a role to play.
I found the fantasy elements intriguing and surprising. Since we see the action develop from Aliera's point of view, we are as confused as she is when she encounters this alternate fantasy world. The ending left me yearning for more, and I truly hope that Ms. Yolen will write more graphic novels about Aliera. She has created a strong character, one who is skeptical about the world around her, not quite sure of her own strength, but feisty and ready to play either the aggressor or the defender, as is needed.

Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors, and she has written everything from picture books (How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?) to folk tales (Not One Damsel in Distress) to historical fiction (Devil's Arithmetic) to fantasy (The Pit Dragon Chronicles). She has written over 300 books, and her love of writing and imagination truly shines through each one. In an interview the Graphic Novel Reporter, Yolen says that she while grew up on comics, she found a steep learning curve in writing a graphic novel. The sequel to Foiled is in the editing stages, and is called Curses Foiled Again. Read more about the story behind the story of Foiled in an interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Foiled was named as one of the best graphic novels of 2010 by the Graphic Novel Reporter. If you are looking for another graphic novel with lots of fantasy, my students would highly recommend the Amulet series, by Kazu Kibuishi.

The review copy was kindly sent by First Second. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books. All images ©2010 Mike Cavallaro; shared with permission by the publisher.

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