Crabapple Trouble by Kaeti Vandorn, 176 pp, RL 3

Crabapple Trouble by Kaeti Vandorn
Published by RH Graphic
Purchased from Barnes & Noble
Callaway Crabapple is both excited and anxious about the upcoming Summertime Fair hosted by the Forest Fairy Kingdom with "Fairy Prizes Galore." Calla wants to be part of the festivities, but when her friends ask her about what she'll be making to enter into the contests for judging, well, she gets so worried she loses her head. Literally. It pops off and rolls away and, while she's more bewildered than actually hurt, it also gives her the chance to meet Thistle, a fast friend and fairy who has a very different approach to life. 

As the fair approaches and her anxiety mounts, Calla finds a way to comfortably be part of the festivities and contribute to the work her group of friends has taken on. Even better, in a moment of worry, she bumps into Clementine, also nervous about participating, and is able to comfort her. Meanwhile, Thistle, shunned by the other fairies because he has been known to nap instead of help with work, finds a way to come through, with the help of Calla, when given an important job.

Through Calla and Thistle and the unalike ways they prepare for the fair and join in (or not) group activities and help their communities, Vandorn presents readers with two different ways of coping with powerful emotions and finding ways to be part of a group when what you have to offer - and how you offer it - differs from the rest.

With a soft palette and enchanting characters, Vandorn's anthropomorphized food characters and her natural setting are totally engaging and perfect for readers ready to take a step up from leveled readers. Crabapple Trouble is a special, beautiful book in every way. Vandorn's author's note defines "awfulize," a word new to her that describes a specific kind of worry she "spend a lot of time with" as a kid. As an adult, Vandorn shares that she changed her internal dialogue as a way of coping with her worry, and created Thistle as a way to challenge Calla's thought patterns and help her break out of imagining things to be as bad as they can possibly be - and losing her head. Backmatter also includes characters sketches and creation, "how to draw" instructions, pages from Vandorn's short story "Lumina," the inspiration for Crabapple Trouble, and a peek at Vandorn's next book!

I almost didn't buy this book . . . I was in the bookstore, three books in hand (when I had gone in for just one) when I saw Crabapple Trouble. I picked it up, delighted over the heft of the hardcover and the marvelous design. I flipped through the the candy colored pages, smiling at the fruit and veg characters. I tallied the cost of the books in hand, made a mental list of the books in my TBR pile and put Crabapple Trouble back on the shelf. Almost to the cash register, I headed all the way back to the children's department and grabbed it. And I'm so glad I did! A stellar graphic novel, Crabapple Trouble looks especially great on the shelf next to Laura Knetzger's Bug Boys, another superb, gorgeous, RH Graphic book that debuted earlier this year!

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