Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne

Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 9781534441538

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Fantasy

What did you like about the book? Beetle is a twelve year old goblin witch who is on the cusp of realizing her powers. Only, she has to learn to ride a broom first. She lives with her Gran but spends a lot of time at the Mall, which is inhabited by spirits trapped there, seemingly for eternity. Her best friend, Blob Ghost, is one of these. They are an amorphous orange blob who does not speak, but Beetle know them so well that she can always figure out what they are saying. When Beetle’s former friend Kat, an undead witch from a prominent family, reappears in town, Beetle is at first tongue tied. Kat is so cool, what with all of her followers on the Swarm app and her experience at a fancy school, that Beetle assumes they will no longer be friends. But Kat has missed Beetle as much as Beetle has missed Kat, so their friendship rekindles. They work together to figure out how to help BG (Blog Ghost) escape from the Mall. Something is preventing them from leaving the premises. And Kat’s aunt is a powerful sorceress who is trying to raze the Mall, so they have to act fast. Before they get very far however, the girls have a fight. Will Beetle be able to save BG on her own? Will she ever be able to tell Kat her true feelings about her?

This is a charming witchy fantasy, with a friendship/possible romance, and an adorable bestie. The characters are well articulated, both visually and character-wise. Gran’s character is a force of nature that honors the bond and wisdom of elders. I love the colors of the characters and how the story is thrilling without too much scary violence. A lovely graphic offering for early to middle grade fantasy lovers.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  For fans of fanatasy LGBTQ friendly titles such as Witch Boy (Ostertag), Snapdragon (Leyh) or Oddly Normal (Frampton), ages 8-12.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Graphic novels

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: January 31, 2021

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