by Fernandez, Kelly

After a prank goes seriously wrong and she loses her powers, Manu uses a dangerous spell to restore them and learns that great power comes at a high price-one that she may not be able to pay. Simultaneous and eBook. Illustrations.

<div> Kelly Fernández makes comics that are inspired by her daily experiences, Dominican heritage, and American culture. Her work has been featured in comics anthologies, and she won a Chicago Alternative Comics Expo Cupcake Award for her minicomic <i>Cuidando</i>. Kelly is a winner of the Get Published by Graphix contest, and <i>Manu </i>is her debut graphic novel. She lives in Queens, New York, and you can visit her online at </div>

*Starred Review* Fernández's debut graphic novel is all about embracing the parts of yourself that are mysterious and magical, as it traces the story of Manu (short for Manuela) in a setting inspired by the Dominican Republic. She is taken in by a religious order of sisters who run a school for little girls with magical powers, or witchlings. The order's practice focuses on using their powers for good and for serving others, but Manu is always getting into mischief and showing off. Manu is different from the other kids, even down to the kind of bird she's able to transfigure into, which complicates her social life. One thing leads to another, and a curse causes her to seek help from a demon, which brings out the parts of Manu that she would much rather hide. Fernández's cartoon artwork in saturated tones and with lush, vibrant, plant-filled backgrounds makes for charming, lighthearted atmosphere, within which she affectionately depicts the rich variety of love people can have for one another, such as the love of a parent, foster parent, or best friend. It's a lovely portrayal of religious mysticism, in which witchcraft and Catholicism are interdependent, that emphasizes how people can use their abilities, regardless of where they came from, for good. Grades 3-6. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

A young witchling struggles when she loses her magical powers. Manu (don't call her Manuela) has grown up at La Academia de Santa Dominga with the religious sisters who found her as a baby. She might have the strongest magical talent, which stems from her unknown past, but that doesn't make her the best student at the academy-she's always getting in trouble. When tragedy strikes and Manu's magic starts regressing, Manu worries she has been cursed and blames Josefina, her best friend, as Josefina had wished the magic be taken away when one of Manu's jokes got out of hand. Now Manu must decide between following the advice and remedies doled out by Mother Dolores, who believes that the magic bestowed by the saints should be used only to "serve the poor and the powerless," or looking for answers elsewhere-even though it might endanger her and her friends. Drawing from her own Dominican experience, Fernández weaves together religion, lore, and brujería and creates a world in which magical powers bestowed by saints and evil eye necklaces work hand in hand. The setting, coded as Latin American since Spanish is spoken, provides an environment in which the narrative and illustrations explore complex relationships between accessible characters that often require forgiveness, understanding, and acceptance to survive. Characters are racially diverse; Manu has brown skin and black, puffy hair. Fun, refreshing, antics-filled magical adventures. (maps, character list, author's note, sketchbook) (Graphic fantasy. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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