Skip to main content

Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Stevenson, Ellis, Watters and Allen, 128 pp, RL: Middle Grade

Lumberjanes! Lumberjanes is a monthly print comic and it has to be one of the most awesome things I have read in a long time, mostly because of how it subverts the dominant paradigm. The Lumberjanes are made up of five diverse girls who are "hardcore lady-types" attending Miss Quinzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp where they are earning their various badges and battling supernatural forces on the sly. Like the Lumberjanes themselves,  Lumberjanes the comic is a team effort. It was created by  Shannon Watters, editor at Boom! Studios, Noelle Stevenson and Grace EllisLumberjanes is written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, and illustrated by Brooke Allen with colors by Maarta Laiho and letters by Aubrey Aiese. One of the great things about buying Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy, which combines issues 1 - 4, is all the bonus art and the cover gallery, which include work by guest artists. It's really cool to see the variants and styles that they bring to the work.

The format of each Lumberjanes comic itself is really cool. They always start with a page from the Lumberjanes Field Manual discussing different badges and what is required to earn them. There is an "Up All Night Badge," a "Naval Gauging Badge," an "Everything Under the Sum Badge," a "Robyn Hood Badge" and a "Pungeon Master Badge." Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are "five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together" at camp. Trying to watch out and watch over the girls is their counselor, Jen, who wears a beret and neckerchief, and the camp director, Rosie (who has a very powerful riveter vibe) who, when we first meet her, is carving the claw to a very strange creature. Even with the standard outdoor gear, each girl has a distinct personal style and personality. Amidst all the action, they can be heard shouting, "What the junk?" and any number of variations on the girl-power phrase,  "What in the Joan Jett?" and "Oh my Bessie Coleman!" or "Holy Mae Jemison!!" or "Where in the Phillis Wheatley were you?" and other hilarious outbursts that I hope will have young readers looking up these great ladies and learning why they are great.

The girls begin their Indiana Jones-type-fast-paced adventure with a nighttime forest adventure that finds them fighting off three-eyed, vicious foxes who howl the mysterious phrase, "Beware the Kitten Holy," before they run off into the night. From there the girls find themselves attacked by a river monster, pick-pocketed by a three-eyed eagle and falling down a passage that leads them to an underground world where they have to use their knowledge of the Fibonacci sequence and battle statues to make their way out. Once they do, poison ivy and a group of Scouting Lads who seem more like Stepford Wives are waiting for them, along with hipster yetis. Like I said, Lumberjanes is non-stop, wall-to-wall action where the girls face all the danger, do all the fighting and solve all the mysteries. Not your typical (for children's literature, anyway) combination of a boy and his sister, best friend, cousin, or whatever other label they want to give to what is basically the girl sidekick in the story. I can't wait for the day when someone writes a middle grade novel that is all action and all girls. Actually, Elise Primavera comes pretty close to this in her novels Ms. Rapscott's Girls and The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls where girls do everything but the action is quite a bit less violent than what the Lumberjanes face. 

Besides being awesome for having an all-girl cast, Lumberjanes makes another important contribution to diversity in kid's books with Mal and Molly, campers who have a crush on each other. As Elaine Atwell wonderfully says of the girls in her review of issue #1, "It's queer in a way that doesn't draw attention to itself because it doesn't need to; because all the campers are free to be themselves." My eleven-year-old son tore through Lumberjanes and loved it. When asked, in a round-about way, he said he thought the girls were really good buddies, and I loved that. In an article for the New York Times titled, Pow! Gay Comic Book Characters Zap Stereotypes Shannon Watters said that the, "normalization of queer young people was important" and that she wanted to "represent children at an age regular children at an age when they are figuring out who they are." I had a hard time deciding wether or not to even mention this aspect of Lumberjanes here because it seems like part of normalizing something is not pointing it out all the time. At the same time, a book that does not draw attention to diversity and represents characters in an accepting, tolerant environment where they are free be themselves is still rare enough that I think it does need to be called to our attention. I hope that Molly, Mal, Jo, April and Ripley and the Lumberjanes comics are the new standard and I look forward to reading the graphic novels, comics and books of all those who follow.

Some Lumberjanes news: Issue #17 will be Noelle Stevenson's last for the time being and Kat Leyh will be stepping in. Also, 20th Century Fox is turning Lumberjanes into a live-action movie! More info here.

LUMBERJANES VOLUME 2 (Issues #5 - #8) which comes out on October 20, 2015.
Buy them HERE for $3.99 an issue!

Source: Purchased


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…