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Inside Good Comics For Kids

The War at Ellsmere

When I unpacked my order a couple of months back and saw “The War at Ellsmere,” I was sure I had ordered the title by accident or that the vendor had sent me the wrong title.  I couldn’t recall even hearing about the title, let alone being interested enough in the description to order it for my library.  I finally took the book home and read it this weekend and was able to comfort myself with the knowledge that in fact either this was a happy accident or I really had read/heard about the title somewhere and was impressed enough to order it.

The War at Ellsmere
By Faith Erin Hicks
Ages 12 and up
SLG Publishing, 156pp. $12.95

Juniper (Jun for short) is the new scholarship student at the Ellsmere private school.  For some reason, everyone knows she’s the scholarship kid, which leads to some nasty comments form a group of stuck up students. But Jun holds her own, and dishes back as well as she receives. Of course, this doesn’t quite make her friends. Her only friend in school is her roommate Cassie, another misfit whom the ‘in crowd’ picks on.  Together they muddle along school, helping each other out in more ways than one.  But when Jun loses control and punches one of the girls, she’s almost expelled.  To her dismay her victim sticks up for her, but what she doesn’t realize is that the ‘in crowd’ is now plotting the ultimate revenge.

I really like Jun. She’s tough, but with enough soft edges to make her likeable. She’s smart.  In subtle ways she builds up Cassie’s confidence and helps her out.  Yet Cassie helps Jun out in her own unique way, with mystical stories about the founders of Ellsmere.  As much as this book is about strong women, it’s more about friendship, and yes, the horrors of schools’ pecking order.

It’s funny that Hope Larson (Chiggers) wrote the forward for this title, because both books have a similar feel in mood and artwork.   The black and white ink drawings are thoughtful, and sharp.  (I just adored Cassie’s hair. It reminded me of a classmate I had in high school.  Her hair was just like that!) 

Right now, this book is sitting on my shelf. The book’s cover just isn’t capturing my student’s attention, but with some convincing, I know I’m going to find an audience.  What middle schooler and high schooler don’t want to read about the fall of the queen bee?

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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