cover image My Extremely Normal Fairy-Tale Life (Nell of Gumbling #1)

My Extremely Normal Fairy-Tale Life (Nell of Gumbling #1)

Emma Steinkellner. Labyrinth Road, $21.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-57066-1; $13.99 paper ISBN 978-0-593-57069-2

Twelve-year-old Nell, portrayed with light brown skin, learns to appreciate her hometown in this winningly wholesome fantasy graphic novel by Steinkellner (the Okay Witch series), formatted as the protagonist’s illustrated journal. Seventh-grader Nell lives in the workaday storybook village of Gumbling, which was the Kingdom of Gumbling until the king stepped down “100-ish years ago.” She’s excited to start her apprenticeship, especially since she knows she’s going to be assigned to the famous artist Wiz Bravo. When she is, instead, assigned to Mrs. Birdneck, the Town Lorekeeper, Nell’s dad and pa lend earnest encouragement despite her wallowing (“I will be wasting all this time after school doing something I will hate”). Upon the arrival of two entrepreneurs, who claim to be descendants of the former king and intend to rebrand the town as a fairy tale vacation destination, Nell realizes that Mrs. Birdneck’s archives might hold the truth about the retired king’s wishes. Steinkellner fashions Nell and her dramatic, mythical classmates—including a centaur and a fairy—with explosive emotion that leaps off the page. Gently humorous prose teems with goofy asides and astute musings, while thinly lined, softly colored art initiates the first installment of this freewheeling series. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)