Best friends, magic and religion mix for a fantastic fantasy graphic novel called Manu by Kelly Fernandez. The themes, landscape and feeling of the novel itself is based in the author/illustrators Dominican and American heritage. This is a modern fairy/folk tale that combines classic story and new imagery.
Manu was a foundling. Manu is always getting into trouble. Manu is a bit “too much” for her classmates. But Manu is loved by the headmistress and her best friend, Josefina. This is a school for magical girls. For witches. When Manu once again is in trouble, and once again causing mischief, she uses a spell far beyond even her talents (which surpass any students to date). It is up to Josephina, the headmistress and the other students to stop the damage that has been caused when this spell Manu casts goes more than a little bit messy. It literally goes to the demons!
While this might sound “scary” it is done tastefully and respectfully. This is a plus due to the setting being basically Catholic nuns in a school of mythology and magic. The feeling is if Tidesong, Harry Potter, Aunt Po, and a hint of romance came together. This combining religion of the Catholic church and the traditions of the island the author comes from, allows for a middle that is familiar and new. Manu might not have a truly “fresh idea”, but it has an interesting way to tell the coming-of-age story of a girl and her friend. It has a tone of the girls are not just best friends but are sisters of the heart and possibly a bit more.
Ages 10 and up are the best audience, but younger can do if they are not too sensitive of a reader. The cover art does give you an idea of how the books illustrations are. The colors are rich and invoke the feeling of a tropical home. They are not overly bold, but not faded or muted. Details fit what is needed to set the mood and move the story along.