Readers are in for quite a treat this summer, as Moth Hush – the adorably relatable 13-year-old half-witch from writer/illustrator Emma Steinkellner’s critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Okay Witch – is back for another heartwarming adventure in The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow. Targeted towards a middle grade audience, The Hungry Shadow serves as a perfect welcome for both new and returning readers in light of the wonderful “recap” at the beginning of the book by everyone’s favorite familiar, Mr. Laszlo. (To be clear, he’s a dead man, but an alive cat.) In this latest installment, Moth is still coming to terms with the struggles that are all-too-familiar to 13-year-olds . . . in addition to the added challenges of being a witch who is very much still in training. As if that’s not enough, Moth must deal with being the constant target of kids’ taunts at school, wanting nothing more than to be liked for who she is, rather than feeling like her true self is never good enough. For that reason, when a magical opportunity presents itself to Moth to be more confident, more self-assured, and more popular, why would she pass it up?
As with the first book in the series, Steinkellner excels at bringing Moth to life in The Hungry Shadow, pairing her natural and quippy dialogue with her lively and vibrant illustrations. The combination make for a fun and lighthearted read, supplemented by a positive and heartwarming message for its readers about finding happiness with who you are. Moth’s world is populated by a wonderfully diverse cast of characters, not only in race and ethnicity but also skin tones and body types, which has truly been a signature of Steinkellner’s work (including her Eisner Award-nominated series, Quince). The core cast of Moth, her mother Cal, her best friend Charlie, and her familiar Mr. Laszlo are complemented by the addition of Moth’s adorably awkward teacher, Mr. Gorski-Garcia, who serves as a great example of how even adults can be teased for their unique and off-beat personalities, but that doesn’t make them any less special or lovable.
Steinkellner’s first Okay Witch was deservedly added to various “best-of lists” for graphic novels for young readers upon its release, and there should be no doubt that The Hungry Shadow will follow suit. I would highly recommend The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow for middle grade readers and up, as it is truly a delight to be enjoyed by those who are struggling with finding happiness with who they are – no matter their age.
Creative Team: Emma Steinkellner (writer/illustrator)
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