marshmallow & jordan

Now that I’m a teacher, it’s much harder to keep track of all of the awesome books releasing each week. I don’t have the attention span (or time) I used to have to track what’s going on in the book world! Luckily, the folks at Macmillan and First Second do a great job of getting the word out about their books to bloggers, librarians, and educators. And when I heard about Alina Chau’s middle grade graphic novel Marshmallow & Jordan, I perked right up. A mysterious white elephant, a story set in Indonesia, playing sports with a disability, and water polo (which I played myself!) all rolled into one story??! Sign me up. And the result, you’ll be glad to hear, is enchanting.

Jordan's days as star player for her school's basketball team ended when an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. Now, she's still the team captain, but her competition days seem to be behind her...until an encounter with a mysterious elephant, who she names Marshmallow, helps Jordan discover a brand new sport.

Will water polo be the way for Jordan to continue her athletic dreams--or will it just come between Jordan and her best friends on the basketball team? And with the big tournament right around the corner, what secret is Marshmallow hiding?

Jordan, a former basketball star growing up in Indonesia, is still on her school’s team even after an accident left her paraplegic. However, Jordan misses playing in games – she’s not allowed to compete in a wheelchair, even though she can still make amazing shots. Enter Marshmallow, a mysterious white baby elephant who needs Jordan’s help and friendship. With Marshmallow’s help, Jordan learns how to play water polo, joins the water polo team, and works for her chance to compete again. Two mysteries remain: who, or what, is Marshmallow? And will Jordan’s new team get to compete next year at nationals?


Oh my goodness, this is SUCH a cute book! It’s solidly middle grade, with adorable art, bittersweet moments of loss and could-have-been futures balanced by a solid here-and-now main character, and a fantastic setting and cultural milieu. Jordan’s family, including her parents and her nenek (grandmother) are a welcome change from many YA and middle grade books – they’re alive! and present in Jordan’s life. Their banter and support are refreshing to read, and help the reader understand how Jordan has become who she is. Jordan also has an amazing friend group through her basketball team, and throughout the book she gets to know girls on the water polo team as well. Overall, Chau’s storytelling is fairly simple, but the setting, amazing network behind Jordan, the mystery and cuteness (kawaii!) of Marshmallow, and the gorgeous artwork raise the book a level above.


If there is a weakness in this book, it is that there’s not quite enough of it – but isn’t that always the way? I was having such a good time with Jordan and her crew that I wanted to keep reading. Marshmallow’s fantastical origins could have been explored a little more? But really, what you get as a reader is a sweet, good-hearted story with just a bit of angst to carry you through. And it is a wonderful read for those reasons!


Let’s talk a bit about the art. When I first saw it I thought refined watercolors, vibrant colors, attention to cultural setting and details (especially food and flowers!), and an elephant that is too cute to be real – and I was right on that point! Chau’s art was sketched and cleaned up in Photoshop, watercolors painted by hand, and then composites were detailed in Photoshop, according to the back matter. Chau captures movement well, including illustrating plays in both basketball and water polo, which is tough! Her background in the film and game industries no doubt helped develop that skill, and she brings it and the storytelling to the page with grace.


In all, Marshmallow & Jordan is a heartwarming, thoroughly middle school tale of overcoming obstacles, making (and keeping!) friends, and familial love. The dash of fantasy at the end just adds to the delightful whole.


Recommended for: fans of Shannon Hale’s Real Friends, Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl, and Raina Telgemeier’s books, anyone interested in sports depicted in graphic novels, and readers ages 8+ looking for wholesome, pure-hearted heroines and reads!


 Marshmallow & Jordan will be available from First Second on October 26, 2021.


Fine print: I received an advanced e-ARC for review consideration from the publisher. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

1 comment:

Katy K. said...

This sounds charming! I will have to look it up for my daughter.

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