Svetlana Chmakova’s Berrybrook Middle School graphic novel series (Awkward, Crush, and Brave) have been some of the most popular graphic novels in my school library. Her characters and the awkward situations they find themselves in at middle school are really relatable for kids. Svetlana’s latest book, Be Wary of the Silent Woods, is the first in her new series, The Weirn Books, and it’s scarily good.
Ailis and Na’ya live in a small, sleepy town called Laitham. It’s home to humans and human-passing night things – vampires, shapeshifters, mermaids and weirns. Ailis and Na’ya are weirns, witches born with a demon guardian spirit (called an astral) bound to them for life. The girls go to school at night and have classes on things like Astral Training and Alchemistry. Like any school there are bullies and detention, but also crystal caves and fireproof walls. While searching for a book in her grandma’s attic, Ailis uncovers a family secret. A shadow starts looming in the Silent Woods, a classmate starts acting weird and then Na’ya’s little brother D’esh disappears. Ailis and Na’ya realise they must face their fears and confront the secrets of the mansion in the Silent Woods.
Be Wary of the Silent Woods is an action-packed start to this awesome series that delivers frights and fun. It has the humour that I love from the Berrybrook series mixed with this cool supernatural world. Svetlana uses lots of onomatopoeia so there are some great panels that are taken over by sounds, like screaming or rain pouring down. She doesn’t let the panels limit the story either, with action and speech bubbles breaking out of their panels. Svetlana’s colour palette is muted but never dull.
One of my favourite aspects of Svetlana’s books is that her characters are so expressive and this book is no exception. Ailis and Na’ya’s go through lots of different emotions in the story but it’s always clear from their faces how they’re feeling.
Be Wary of the Silent Woods is out now and I’m already looking forward to book 2. Get this for fans of the Berrybrook Middle School trilogy or kids who like a spooky adventure story.