cover image Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

Bree Paulsen. Quill Tree, $22.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-06-299508-7

Enchanted to help Witch Agnes in her garden, anxious garlic bulb Garlic and her best friend Carrot live in a fruit- and vegetable-populated hamlet at the edge of a forest. When Agnes, who appears white, discovers that a gray-skinned vampire has taken up residence in a nearby castle, mean-spirited Celery nominates vampire-repellent Garlic to deal with the menace and “protect the folks in town.” Garlic sets off with encouragement from Agnes, who insists that Celery accompany her. Debut graphic novelist Paulsen lingers visually on dew-covered cabbages, wonderfully squat produce homes, and other horticultural and domestic delights. Her warm, autumnal palette and attention to shape and contour add to the appeal of the pastoral setting, and comic overreaction brings a cartoon sensibility to the characters’ plight. Garlic’s love of gardening provides ample metaphors for inner growth, the dedication to “all the anxious bulbs” makes clear Paulsen’s sympathy with worried Garlic’s struggles (mostly fear of judgment and of others’ perceptions), and Garlic’s bravery under duress serves to remind readers of their own strength. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)