cover image Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable

Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, , illus. by Mike Ploog. . Hyperion, $9.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-4231-0062-1

An appealing blend of Spirited Away and The Wizard of Oz , this comics adaptation expertly blends art and text in the launch of the Abadazad series. The story unfolds through Kate's "enchanted journal." The belligerent 14-year-old is angry at her father for running out ("Dad ditched us when Matt was two and I was five"), her mother for withdrawing emotionally, and at herself for failing, five years before, to prevent her younger brother Matty's abduction. When she learns that Matty is being held prisoner in Abadazad, the magical realm that the siblings used to love reading about, she realizes she can still rescue him. Thanks to a cogent design and Ploog's deft brushwork, the paper-over-board volume distinguishes the yellowed pages of Kate's emotionally messy but honest diary from the magical tales of Abadazad. DeMatteis seamlessly weaves far-out threads into Kate's real life, such as the heroine's neighbor, Mrs. Vaughn, who turns out to be Little Martha from Abadazad ("You see, time, as we know it, doesn't exist in Abadazad," the woman explains). When events get too marvelous for words, Ploog's artwork explodes into the pages. The artist's fans may be disappointed that the comic strips seem constricted by the layout, but his full-page images demonstrate how easily he toggles between Kate's drab domicile and the splendor of Abadazad. And Kate's edginess keeps the story from feeling too saccharine. Readers may well share in the heroine's reluctant surrender to hopeful wonder. Ages 9-up. (June)