Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge, 192 pp, RL TEEN

Will & Whit is the newest graphic novels from the stunningly creative Laura Lee Gulledge. Her last book, Page by Paige, the story of an artistic girl who has to move from her childhood home to New York City and start at a new high school, was impressive, among many impressive things, for Gulledge's ability to give readers a glimpse into Paige's imagination by putting it on the page in pictures. But, Gulledge's characters do more than think creatively, they actually create. Paige and her friends make some great street art and in Will & Whit, the lamp-making Willhemena Huckstep finds herself exploring new creative territory when she is invited to join the Penny Farthing Carnival, a collection of performances and installations.


As hurricane Whitney approaches, Will finds herself with more sleepless nights, and not just because of the impending storm. Will's parents died almost a year ago and her loving, globetrotting aunt Ella has returned home to run the family antiques store and take care of Will, who is still struggling with her loss. Will, the lamp maker, is scared of the dark. Where we saw Paige's creative imaginings in Page by Paige, she shows us the shadowy imaginings that follow Will wherever she goes in Will & Whit. With her friends by her side, the proto-chef Noel and Autumn the puppeteer, Will makes it through the storm and the stormy romances that the carnival stirs up to create a Shadow Sculpture that ultimately helps her come to terms with the darkness in her life.

Gulledge is making a fine name for herself as a graphic novelist, especially as one who sheds a light (no pun intended) on the inner life of characters who express themselves creatively. I can't wait to see what she does next!

Source: Review Copy


Jeremy said...

Always with the dead parents. It feels like a kid-lit conspiracy to kill us all off so our children can get busy overcoming adversity. Sorry, I'll stop complaining about this issue now...

Tanya Turek said...

So, so true though... Marjorie Ingall succinctly summed up the current rules of fantasy in a book review by saying:

"Want to write a middle-grade fantasy adventure series? It’s easy! First, conjure up a plucky, prickly team of three — children who have to learn to trust one another and work together. Make the stakes really high; saving the world is always good. Use lots of wisecracking humor. Ensure the parents are absent (dead, missing, away — you’ll figure it out). Invoke classic themes and figures from folklore and mythology, but don’t bother becoming slavishly wedded to them. Be sure to include an intellectually or physically butt-kicking girl."

When does this formula get stale? Or is it a useful metaphor, shorthand for bypassing other issues?