I like what the publisher description of The Witch Boy says: From the illustrator of the web comic “Strong Female Protagonist” comes a debut middle-grade graphic novel about family, identity, courage–and magic. It sums up the story well (though you do not need to know “Strong Female Protagonist”).
Molly Knox Ostertag has created a contemporary story with a role reversal twist. In this case, instead of the traditional story of a girl doing “boy things” a boy is doing “girl things.” The graphic novel format can make this story a bit choppy at times, yet makes it accessible, too. Also, there are some obviously modern ideas mixed in such as a non-white child who has two dads.
The story mixes traditionalism, roles in a community, what witches are like and family values. There a few clues that an adult reader will pick up on that the 10 to 13 reader might not. Many of the characters are stereotypical (the “bully boys”, the “macho hero father”, a girl trying to prove herself, a confused main-character, the “women folk who are the real leaders”) yet, due to this they can be realistic. The kids reading this will not “read into it” too deeply. They will just enjoy the story.
You cannot have a graphic novel without talking about the art. While this might not be art I would frame, it is perfect for the story. The characters are created so you know who they are, their personalities. Their colors fit them and the scene. There is the right about of details to move the story along. While realistic they also have a “comic book” look to them. For me, this helps gear it to a younger audience and cut some of the harsher elements of the story.
The sequel The Hidden Witch will be out in October 2018.