Jellaby: A Chick Lit Wednesday (Graphic Novel) review

Jellaby by Kean SooI don’t think I mentioned this on the blog yet, but I spent the last two weeks writing two 20ish page papers about graphic novels. I can rattle off titles, a brief history of the term, benefits of the format, the difference between graphic novels and comics (trick question!), and even how to develop a graphic novel collection at your library. Having become one of those experts on graphic novels without reading any graphic novels, I decided to read Jellaby (2008) by Kean Soo yesterday.

Find it on Bookshop.

I also decided to cross-post its review as this week’s CLW post and my inaugural graphic novel review. (I could have merged this with another category, but graphic novels/comics are so unique I thought they needed a different category.)

Having read Kean Soo’s Eisner nominated graphic novel Jellaby (2008) in a couple of hours, I can see why Lea over at Library Voice selected it as a reluctant reader pick. How cool is it for a child who dislikes reading to pick up a title and be able to read it in a few days?

This story does not, however, start with Jellaby. It starts with a ten-year-old girl. Portia does not like her new school. In fact, almost everything about school bores her. Even having the freedom to write her book report on “Reason and Emotion: Classical and Romantic Philosophies in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia” doesn’t do much to challenge Portia let alone engage her. Liking school is even harder when no one in school seems especially fond of Portia. With the added problems of a missing father and a busy mother, it’s no wonder Portia seems less than happy.

When Portia hears something outside her window in the middle of the night, she isn’t sure what to expect. But being a resourceful child, Portia takes a flashlight and goes out to investigate.

She finds a large purple monster who tries to eat said flashlight. Instead of being scared, or running away, Portia invites the monster inside and makes him a tuna sandwich. Suddenly Portia has exactly what she needed: a friend.

Matters get more complicated when Portia’s classmate finds out about Jellaby and insinuates himself into Portia’s decision to help Jellaby find his home. Thus begins a journey that, I should warn you, will not finish in this volume.

The illustrations are drawn primarily with purple, lavender, and black (with yellow and orange accents). I was impressed with how much variety Soo was able to get so much variation from such a small palette. I also liked the configuration of this graphic novel. The panels flowed in a sensible way so that sequencing wasn’t a challenge (sometimes I have a hard time reading comic book panels in the correct order). The writing is also large enough to make it easy to read without eye strain.

My Mom doesn’t agree with me on this–I think the word repulsive might have been used–but I think Jellaby is adorable—possibly cuter than either Portia or Jason, though I don’t know that they had a chance when being compared to a lovable, large purple monster. The story here is complex, but clearly plotted out, with a lot of fun characters. Like many other graphic novels, this title is one that will likely appeal to readers of multiple ages from a variety of age levels, which as far as book recommending goes, isn’t too shabby.

This is Kean Soo’s first graphic novel–hopefully the first of many about Portia, Jason and of course Jellaby. Oh, and Jellaby started out as a web comic which you can find at The Secret Friend Society along with Hope Larson’s comic Salamander Dreams which is archived on the site.