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Review: ‘Sanity & Tallulah’

Sanity & Tallulah

Sanity & Tallulah
by Molly Brooks
Disney-Hyperion, $21.99 hardcover, $12.99 paperback
Ages 8-12

“The future is female,” they say, and nothing demonstrates that better than a science fiction adventure about two smart, daring girls living on a space station.

Super-creative Sanity has genetically engineered a three-headed kitten named “Princess Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds”. Having a pet is a rule violation in such a tightly controlled environment, particularly one that’s a science experiment created using untested equipment, and Tallulah’s mother, the senior scientist on the station, grounds them both when she finds out. “Maybe next time you’ll think twice before abetting mad science,” she declares to her daughter.

Then the cat gets loose at the same time various outages and problems start occurring in core systems. The girls need to find the pet to figure out whether she’s to blame.

Sanity & Tallulah

Sanity & Tallulah is the best kind of science fiction, full of imaginative ideas and crazy possibilities but fundamentally focused on characters and relationships. This is a diverse future centered on family, but Brooks doesn’t lose sight of the classic adventure structure, where two girls use their determination, smarts, and bravery to save their home.

The color scheme is noticeably distinctive. The palette is midnight blue (good for space), a reddish clay color (which also lightens to pink — together they make dark and pale skin tones), and grey (for technology). They add up to a future world that feels grounded and lived-in. It’s not super-shiny high-tech, but patched together and plausible.

There are times when it can be a little difficult to follow the art. This is Brooks’ first graphic novel, so it’s not surprising that occasionally the dialogue helps in describing what we’re supposed to be seeing, as when the girls discuss how the cat escaped or during the big cliffhanger.

It’s reassuring, though, to see Sanity praised for her genius. (Tallulah is mostly there for energy and enthusiasm.) When one character starts muttering, “That girl is too clever for her own good,” Dr. Vega, Tallulah’s mother, responds, “she’s a perfectly fine amount of clever, so long as she’s properly supervised.” Even when the girls are caught, she intersperses warning and disciplining them with concern for their safety and treating their bumps and bruises. And the young women are listened to, with their ideas given fair consideration.

A lot happens in this story, with plenty of possibility in the environment for more what ifs and future adventures. It’s a satisfying, long-lasting read with some terrific role models.

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Johanna About Johanna

Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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