Man, I really wish Monopoly (oh wait- World Domination) had a trebuchet. I’m usually the shoe, but I would LOVE to be a trebuchet.
It has been perpetually gray here in New Hampshire for the last…oh jeez, three weeks? I needed something familiar to hunker down with while waiting for the sun to return, and while shuffling around my house I remembered LittlePlat‘s recent Nimona review. A great review about a great book? Just the spark I needed! Thank you, LittlePlat, and thank you to the whole comment section for reminding me that I could revisit this sneakily affecting but still outrageously snarky story.
Nimona arrives on the scene as all great sidekicks do: without warning, without reason, and without a verified backstory. She cannonballs into the life of supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart, and he can’t help but be taken in by her chutzpah…and the fact that she can shape-shift at will. They are both hungry! He’s hungry for revenge against the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, which happens to be fronted by Blackheart’s ultimate frenemy: Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. She is hungry for crime, blood, guts, and pizza. All of the important stuff.
I love that Nimona is a capital-T-TEEN. She’s rude, impatient, moody, and ready to fly off the handle at any moment. She’s also unable to voice that she is still just a scared and lonely kid. She chooses to voice, instead, that she is a literal fire-breathing dragon who will blast down all your doors to get what she wants. She takes up space, she attempts to control her rapidly changing body through both transformation of the traditional type (hair dye!) and transformation of the more magical variety (hulk arms! shark! cat! rhino!) I see so much of Nimona in my students; so many of my kids have been bounced around, abandoned, and told that they’re “bad kids” because of things that are far outside of their control. They’ve been forced into adulthood at too young an age. They’ve developed prickly exteriors because they’ve had to. I’ve had a few of my students read this book, and while they won’t admit to me that they like it because I am so VERY UNCOOL, I do see them drawing their own science-fantasy adventures in the margins of their notebooks.
Noelle Stevenson’s story is so lovely, and so is her artwork! She communicates so much through sketched lines and muted colors. Every line is intentional, and so much is told just from the way a character leans, sits, or stands. Her artworks reminds me of old Scary Go Round and Hark! A Vagrant. I still love both, but Scary Go Round was on-hand when I was a teen, and I wish that Nimona had been around then as well.
Nimona the character teaches us to look beyond the maladaptive behavior; to care for the human and not the junk that they’re throwing your way. Nimona over all goes beyond the needs of the individual and into the needs of the whole community. It speaks against authoritarian rule. It speaks in defense of science and critical thinking. It speaks of friendship, growth, and change- and it does it all with zombie jokes, scatterbrained scientists, ridiculous golden armor, and a girl who is also a shark.