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Review: Swans in Space

I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers isn’t real.  I’m sorry. 

But what if it was?  What if the TV show was really a documentary and everything you saw on the screen had actually taken place, complete with weird aliens, space ships, and cool costumes?  Even better, what if the aliens were talking teddy bears, the space ships looked like swan-shaped paddle boats, and the costumes were so cool they came equipped with button-topped go-go boots?

Swans in Space
Creator: Lun Lun Yamamoto
Age Rating: 7-12
ISBN: 978-1-897376-93-5
Udon Entertainment, 150 pages, $8.99

Sixth grade class president Corona Hoshino is Big Girl On Campus.  Her winning personality and fashion sense have made her popular with her classmates and her great grades and organizational skills have made her popular with her teachers.  Corona takes her position as class president seriously, so when she sees classmate Lan Tsukishima being bullied for being a fan of the kiddie show Space Patrol, Corona steps in.  Corona comforts Lan by fibbing that she, too, enjoys Space Patrol and thinks the show is cool.  Impressed by Corona’s seeming sincerity, Lan whisks Corona away to the actual Space Patrol space station, where she is talked in to becoming the newest Space Patrol recruit.

Lan and her instructor, a cuddly-looking teddy bear who would rather play video games than work, turn out to be complete slackers, and both are on the verge of being fired.  Corona’s competitive spirit kicks in and she vows to make their team the best.  Through a series of adventures, Corona begins to learn just what she’s gotten herself into by agreeing to be a Space Patrol trainee and how to juggle home, school, and outer space without falling asleep in class.

Swans in Space is for every little girl who wishes all the Power Rangers could be as smooth and beautiful as the Pink Ranger. Or at least as cool and beautiful as the Pink Ranger was when she was eleven years old.  Corona is a take-charge girl who, when faced with having to make lemonade, makes the best lemonade possible.  But she does it without ever crossing over into too goody-goody or too cloyingly sweet.  Corona stays interesting throughout, playing straight man to Lan much the way Beezus does for Ramona in the Beverly Cleary books.    

Unusual for manga, Swans in Space is in bright, full color, which brings to life to the simple character designs.  The set up and delivery of the jokes are basic enough for early readers to understand and there are enough sight gags to keep older readers engaged.  And while the entire book could have easily gotten mired in sticky sweetness, what with its flying amusement park-themed space ships, adorable aliens, and cross-eyed heroes and heroines, it never does.  Instead it stays gentle, the girls’ adventures are fun, and the teaching moments that all books like this one have aren’t obvious or annoying.  This book will appeal to girls who love sweet fantasy stories like the fairy books by Daisy Meadows, but who aren’t quite ready for manga as involved as VIZ’s Ultra Maniac, and is recommended for ages six and up.

Eva Volin About Eva Volin

Eva Volin is the Supervising Children's Librarian for the Alameda Free Library in California. She has written about graphic novels for such publications as Booklist, Library Journal, ICv2, Graphic Novel Reporter, and Children & Libraries. She has served on several awards committees including the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. She served on YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee for three years and is currently serving on ALSC's Notable Books for Children committee.

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