Written by Mairghread Scott with artwork by Robin Robinson, The City on the Other Side follows a young girl, Isabel, as she gets sucked into an alternate dimension of sorts — the titular City on the Other Side. In doing so, she finds herself in the middle of a war she doesn’t quite understand.
Aimed at younger readers, The City on the Other Side is a well-paced fantasy. Older readers will recognize certain tropes and story patterns, but Mairghread Scott’s story is well executed and Isabel’s journey (both internal and external) is engaging. There’s humor and whimsy mixed in with drama that is fitting for the target audience. In addition to Isabel, the book introduces a number of supporting characters, from the mushroom fairy, Button, to Benjie, a young boy who Isabel encounters towards the middle of the story. Each of these characters make their mark on the story — no one feels unnecessary or pointless.
Robin Robinson’s looser art style really captures the tone of the story. Dynamic facial expressions throughout the book really help convey the emotions to the readers. In particular, Robinson’s style makes dynamic use of the characters’ eyes, diminishing or expanding the pupils depending on the emotion being conveyed. It isn’t realistic at all, but it’s evocative and gives a good feeling of stakes even when we know that our heroine isn’t at risk.
Robinson’s color palette is a mixture of pastels and vibrant highlights, giving the book a dreamlike quality that draws the reader in. The fear with a muted look is that the book picks up a muddy “sameness” but Robinson minimizes the use of grays and sepia tone to maintain a visual diversity to the book’s pages.
Is It Good?
The City on the Other Side is a charming tale of a young girl on an adventure. Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson have created a visually arresting story. There aren’t many surprises for adults here, but for a book aimed at younger readers, this is solid stuff with a complexity that acknowledges the intelligence of its target audience without talking down to them.
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