Sheets by Brenna Thummler, 239 pp, RL 4
Purchased from Barnes & Noble
Story: Set in 1998, Marjorie Glatt is a thirteen-year-old forced to run the family laundromat after the drowning death of her mother and the paralyzing grief of her father. Not only does she have to go to school, where her class is writing a historical essay about ghosts, which Marjorie hates, along with laundry, she has to tend to the needs of demanding customers at work after school. Then, up the stairs to her family home where she and her little brother wait for her father to emerge from his room. To this strife, Thummler adds mandatory, painful swim class for Marjorie and a local buffoon, worthy of a Lemony Snicket novel (and Snicket himself has a quote on the back of the book), who is sabotaging Glatt's Laundry so he can turn the building into a five-star yoga resort and turn the Glatts into indentured servants. Into Marjorie's life comes Wendell, a ghost struggling to keep his sheet clean. He is also an escapee from his ghost town and Dead Youth Empathetics (DYE) a support group where he struggles to tell the story of his death, coming up with dramatic lies instead. Glatt's Laundry is a wonderland for Wendell. Unfortunately, his nighttime play, and encounters with Mr. Saubertuck push Marjorie closer and closer to making a decision she will regret forever.
Illustrations: Thummler's palette is magnificent and perfect, although not traditional, for the autumnal setting of this story. Marjorie's poofy pigtails and plastic jelly sandals let me know right away that this story is set in the past. The scenes, as seen above, when Wendell is telling stories, are an exciting break from her style, evocative of an old folk tale and perfectly suited to Wendell's tale. The setting, on the shores of Lake Eerie, is very working glass and bleak at times, but perfectly suited to the story. The scenes from the ghost town are thrilling, with the sheeted ghosts roaming the streets, sliding down slides at playgrounds and taking dips in pools. The panels where Wendell takes flight are truly thrilling and judiciously spaced.
Why Read? Why Buy?: Sheets is a treat! Fans of Raina Telgemeier will be drawn to it and, hopefully happily, enjoy Thummler's storytelling and illustration style. From Thummler's beautiful palette and moving illustrations to the mixture of delight at seeing a ghost in a sheet and the sadness of knowing a boy died, this book is engrossing. And her ending, which finds Wendell finally doing the right thing, is charming. The plot thread with Mr. Saubertuck feels odd and incongruous at times, but this is easily overlooked with all the other wonders between the covers of Sheets.