I love Brenna Thummler’s debut graphic novel, Sheets, and it’s one that so many of the kids at my school have loved too. It follows Marjorie, a girl who runs her family laundry business, while dealing with everything that school throws at her and a dad that can’t move on from her mother’s death. Marjorie discovers that her house is home to a group of ghosts, including Wendell, a boy who died too young. Wendell and Marjorie find each other when they most need a friend. The last pages of Sheets promised a sequel, and Delicates is finally here. And what a sequel it is!
It’s nearly the end of summer and Marjorie is spending the last days hanging out with Wendell. Marjorie has finally been accepted by the popular kids and she hopes that this year will be different. She’s starts to worry though, that if anyone finds out that she is friends with a ghost, she’ll be labelled a freak or a weirdo. The more time that Marjorie spends with her new friends, the less time she is home to spend time with Wendell, and he starts to feel even more invisible than he already is. Eliza Duncan feels invisible too. She has a passion for photography and she’s determined to capture photographs of actual ghosts. The other kids at school think she’s weird and she doesn’t have any friends. Eliza gets bullied by Marjorie’s so-called friends and she starts to feel like a ghost herself. She finds a friend in Wendell, who feels the same way that she does. When popular girl Tessi goes too far and destroys Eliza’s photos, Eliza can’t take any more. It is up to Marjorie to find Eliza and put things right.
Delicates is a stunning sequel with a powerful message. Brenna tackles bullying and toxic friendships, while also developing her characters from Sheets. I like the way that Brenna has developed Marjorie and Wendell’s stories, while also adding Eliza to the mix. Eliza’s story shows readers the impact of bullying and how it leaves the victim feeling, and Marjorie’s story shows readers how doing nothing to help is also a form of bullying. Brenna gives us some great examples, in Tessi and Colton, of toxic friends.
Brenna’s illustrations blow me away every time! She uses a limited palette, but her illustrations are rich in detail. I am constantly amazed at the way she shows light and shadow. One of the pages just shows the exterior of Eliza’s house, but the way Brenna has shown the sunlight and the shadows of the tree on the house, makes the illustration look like a photo. Some scenes take place in the darkroom and others at night, so Brenna has only used red tones or blue tones, but it is so effective. I also love that Brenna has portrayed different body types throughout the book, meaning that most kids will be able to see themselves in the illustrations.
Both Sheets and Delicates are must-haves for primary, intermediate and high school libraries. They’re perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, Hope Larsen and Svetlana Chmakova. Brenna Thummler has also created a graphic adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, which I highly recommend.