Mel the Chosen by Rachele Aragno, translated by Carla Roncalli Di Montorio, interior design and lettering by Patrick Crotty, 208 pp, RL 3

Mel the Chosen by Rachele Aragno
translated by Carla Roncalli Di Montorio
interior design and lettering by Patrick Crotty 
Review Copy from RHGraphic

Mel the Chosen is a visual delight for all lovers of the fantastical and the magical. Immersed in Aragno's luminous watercolor world populated with curious characters, felt like I was wandering through Wonderland by way of Roald Dahl, with a dash of the fantastic world building of artist, author (and personal favorite) Chris Riddell. Aragno's graphic novel creates a world that is easy to fall into, if not always easy to navigate, with the illustrations carrying the weight of the story telling. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, it is easy to get swept away in the world of Here&Now and the many paths to wander within.

When Mel hears her parents talking about having to move yet again, she is more than frustrated. Fed up with adults continually making decisions that upend her life, she doesn't think twice when she stumbles into the attic apartment of Otto, a white bearded fellow (with piercing eyes) who is having tea with a fox, an owl and a badger dressed in Victorian era garb, who tells her she is The Chosen One, sent to finally stop the evil Malcape the Magnificent, King of Here&Now. Like Mel, Otto was once a boy who was so fed up with not being listened to and not being able to make decisions for himself that he wished to be a grown up. A brush with Malcape left Otto an old man who could not reverse his wish without a rescuer he was forbidden from searching for. 

Together, Otto and Mel, and a talking bird named Benjamino, travel to Here&Now where they wander into a series of strange encounters that don't seem to be getting them any closer to Malcape until he is right there in front of them. As they search, they encounter other victims of Maclape's malicious wish granting, most of which center around children wanting to grow up. When Mel is given that very chance herself, she takes it. And quickly realizes what a mistake she has made. Fortunately, Mel encounters her beloved grandparents in a field where happy thoughts, like glowing fireflies, descend each night as the sun sets in Here&Now, and they give her a powerful charm that ultimately saves Mel and Here&Now.

From a Queen who has to carry her head around while her mother rides a bicycle nonstop to generate power for the castle, to a cemetery full of pajama-clad children waiting to be born and the glowing Wild Tigers of the Dawn, magical bumble bees, and an unforgettable tree house, Aragno imbues Here&Now with a dreamlike vibe that, even when Malcape makes his move, does not feel threatening. Back matter includes an author's note, character sketches, a glossary of magical items and a superb cross section of the Queen's Castle that could be the basis for another story all on its own.

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