the wondrous wonders

I love graphic novels. They are fun to look at, quick reads, and for my students, they are accessible texts. You don’t have to be the strongest reader in the class to get something out of the story in a graphic novel. I have a poster in my classroom that looks like lines on a chalkboard, with the words “AUDIOBOOKS ARE NOT CHEATING” listed over and over. I wish I had one for graphic novels too! Anyway, all that to say, I pick up graphic novels whenever I can, and my latest read was Camille Jourdy’s The Wondrous Wonders, translated by Montana Kane. It is a whimsical and funny portal fantasy for the middle grade set.

the wondrous wonders by camille jourdy book cover
From Camille Jourdy comes a magical graphic novel filled with gentle, offbeat humor and gorgeous watercolor artwork,
The Wondrous Wonders.

It’s perfect weather for a family picnic, but Jo is in a bad mood. Hurt by her parents’ recent divorce and struggling to accept her new stepmother and sisters, she decides to run away and make a new life for herself in the forest. She soon finds herself tumbling through a weird and wonderful landscape, in a realm ruled by an evil cat prince and the dream-logic of a child's imagination. She'll need courage, hope, and heart to overcome all the obstacles she encounters on this adventure.

Young Jo is unhappy with her parents’ divorce and her new stepfamily, and so she runs away to the woods one day. What she finds there is unexpected – a whole world peopled with elves, talking animals, a dastardly Emperor Tomcat, and Wondrous Wonders: beautiful wild horses (ponies?) in all colors. Jo almost immediately joins a rescue mission with her new friends. On this adventure, she meets characters (and I do mean characters) who speak bits of wisdom to her, mock her, and make ridiculous asides. It’s a fun and funny – but the lingering question remains – where will the adventure end?


When I first heard about this title, my attention was caught by the beautiful watercolor artwork, and the phrase “offbeat humor.” I have complicated feelings about that phrase regarding this title. It’s not strange or weird humor – it’s just adult? And I don’t mean that it’s inappropriate. There are simply all sorts of conversations going on around Jo that don’t involve her. And they’re funny! As a child reading this book, the jokes might or might not make sense, but it’s exactly the sort of language that children figure out by listening to adults talk to each other. I think it’s charming that Jo’s adventure, while fantastical, still has so many elements of “real life” in it. And Jo herself, a bit fractious and feral – but open to friendship – is like a lot of little kids I knew or know now.


I also appreciate that there’s no heavy-handed moral at the end of the story. Jo’s adventure is just that: a widening of perspective and trying something new, and if she learns a little bit from the characters she encounters, then good for her. But if she doesn’t, she wandered through a beautiful land, saw lots of weird things, and adapted well. There are themes of course, but they’re not overt, and some things Jourdy leaves the artwork to express best.


Speaking of the art! Jourdy’s panels are watercolor delights, rarely enclosed in black lines. The vibe is classic storybook-turned-graphic novel, and the text’s playful feeling manifests in many ways, including the costumes the characters wear: Maurice the fox in a creampuff suit and Pompom the dog in rainbow-striped boots, for instance. Lots of small panels, set in an ever-changing landscape, keep the adventure moving not only pacing-wise, but distance-wise as well.


The Wondrous Wonders is a delightful, quirky story that recalls Puss in Boots, The Princess Bride, and Alice in Wonderland all in one go. In other words, it’s got adventure, quips, antics, and a safe landing for its young readers. I enjoyed it!


Recommended for: graphic novel readers ages 8 and up, fantasy fans young and old, and anyone who liked Johan Troïanowski’s The Runaway Princess.


The Wondrous Wonders will be available from First Second on November 1, 2022. 


Fine print: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

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