Private school is where to go for the best education, right? That’s what Juniper thinks. Her hard work has won her a scholarship to the prestigious Ellsmere Academy where she’ll finally be able to surround herself in studies and like-minded intellectuals that get along. Well… not quite.
The War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks is a perfect graphic novel for pre-teen or teenage girls. The book has a fresh tone that doesn’t take itself too seriously but doesn’t shortchange the characters’ emotional states. There’s humor but it’s grounded in the story, which expertly captures childhood dynamics among girls. There’s also a little hint of fantasy but it’s used sparingly and imaginatively.
Jun is instantly likable. She has a tough, cool exterior but it’s clear she’s worried she’s made a mistake going to private school. The cast is kept small, and everyone retains a unique look and voice, instantly recognizable. From the cover, Hicks’ art initially appears to have a Scott Pilgrim vibe to it, but it quickly becomes clear that she’s doing her own thing and doing it so well because she’s always serving the story. You always know how Jun is feeling because of her strong command of portraying facial expressions and body language – clearly, honestly. Her environments are so consistent, you never drop out of the story. It’s all so effortless and charming.
If you like that, check out Hicks’ current webcomic Friends With Boys, a fascinating tale about a girl entering public school after being raised home schooled her whole life. Once the entire story gets serialized online, it’ll be published as a graphic novel by the excellent publisher First Second Books, likely sometime in February 2012. Judging from what’s up now, it may surpass The War At Ellsmere.
Faith also has a sillier webcomic called The Adventures of Superhero Girl that updates every Tuesday. It’s also published in the free alt-weekly newspaper The Coast, published out of Halifax, Nova Scotia.