In the last few years, major publishers in the US have taken to releasing more youth-minded comic books, something to be celebrated. Not only has this given a slew of young artists major platforms to release their work, but this publishing effort is surely emmeshing a whole new generation of comic fans into the medium. What starts with a graphic novel at one’s school library furthers a love of reading the quintessential art form we celebrate as enduring enthusiasts. The first release from Italian cartoonist Rachele Aragno, published by Random House, is yet another magnificent addition to the growing pool of comics for young readers.
Mel the Chosen (published in Italian, French and Spanish as Melvina) is the heartfelt story of a young girl frustrated by the choices her parents make that impact her life, from where the family eats, to yet another impending move for their household. As a result, Mel encounters a magical world with layers of meaning and eccentricity to unfold. Mel soon learns that she is the chosen and must help the Here and Now free themselves from the malevolent force known as the Malcape.
This book is stunning, with coarse pencils admirably complemented by lush watercolors. Every page gives Aragno’s magical world flair and character; it’s frankly astonishing that this is the artist’s first published work. It bears the signs of a creator with skill well beyond their years, as their creative characters effortlessly navigating the intricate world created in the tale.
At its heart, this is a story about learning to make your own choices, an appropriate theme for the book’s 8–12-year-old target audience. It’s a wholesome work that was thoroughly enjoyed by my young daughters, who went to work creating their own versions of Aragno’s characters upon completion. The book ends with an essay from the author, as well as character sketches, an index of items from the narrative, and a beautiful cutaway of the Queen’s castle. I can’t stress enough how cherished the supplemental material was by my children; it gave them additional context and a look into the creative process. Knowing that a book of this type may be the first comic a young reader may be exposed to, I hope that publishers will continue to include these additions in subsequent releases.
Mel the Chosen by Rachele Aragno is a great graphic novel by an up-and-coming cartoonist that will surely be adored by the young and young at heart in any household. From its whimsical characters and setting to the picturesque water-colored visuals, it’s a worthy addition to any library.
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