The Elsewhere Chronicles: Book One: The Shadow Door, Book Two: The Shadow Spies, Book Three: The Master of Shadows. Story by Nykko, translation from the French by Carol Klio Burrell, art by Bannister. Published by Graphic Universe (Lerner), middle-grade on up.
When we went to the library last week, there they were, front and center on the new books table--The Elsewhere Chronicles, three volumes of a fantasy graphic novel series (with color pictures) for middle-grade kids. Our librarian, who knows my nine-year old son's reading tastes as well as I do, pressed them into his hands before we had even finished saying hello. He has now read them three times.
The Elsewhere Chronicles tells of a journey that begins in a graveyard, where a mysterious old man is being buried. Three boys, with nothing better to do, watch from the cemetery wall. When the old man's grand-daughter, Rebecca, heads over to check out his spooky house, they decide to go with her. Little do they know that Grandpa Gabe had opened a passageway into another place, and that the door will soon be opened again, trapping the kids in a land haunted by the Shadow Spies. Danger is everywhere (including some really nasty fruits with teeth). But there are friends who give help, and there's a cool dragon, and as long as the kids can keep the Shadows away each night, until sunrise drives them off, there's a chance they might make it home again.
Unfortunately, the first book is the weakest (mainly because it's the most confusing in terms of following the plot, partly because things don't get fantastic until a ways into it), but once the kids actually make it to Elsewhere, things pick up dramatically, and it becomes a fun and gripping adventure. It's made memorable not just by the story, but by the distinct personalities of the characters (which likewise become clearer in books 2 and 3). There are details in the vivid color pictures that make the fantasy world come to life (these are beautiful books), and details in the story that make it interesting even for an older reader.
It's great to see an African girl front and center, and the first book has a rather nicly frank discussion of race. When the kids meet, Rebecca tells the boys that she's the old man's granddaughter. To paraphrase (because the first book is back at the library, already checked out again, and the draft post where I'd copied the quote disappeared):
"But, you're..." says one of the boys.
"Black?" she answers. "Yes, I'd noticed."
However, the books do include the stereotype of "red haired child with glasses" (ala Arnold from the Magic School Bus) being the hapless one. Why couldn't the bad insect have bitten one of the two cooler, dark-haired boys? (and this is just one example of the misfortunes that befall poor Theo).
Although at the end of the third book this particular thread of plot comes to a conclusion, not one of the larger questions is answered, leaving so much room for a sequel you could drive a truck through it. I rather hope there is more to come, not just because I'm curious, but because I became emotionally invested in one of the characters in particular (a boy with an abusive mother), and am anxious to see what happens to him...
Here are reviews of the first book at Buffyverse Comic Reviews, and Comics Worth Reading, and a review of the series at Comics in the Classroom.
My six-year old, who liked looking at the pictures, asked that I also show the second book, because that is the one that has the dragon.