Illustrated by Kyla Vanderklugt, Hwei Lin Lim, Emily Carroll, Olivier Pichard, Afu Chan, Rebecca Taylor.
Spera is the story of two princesses, one who likes to sword fight and explore and another who likes to read and stay inside. One day, the tomboy princess, whose name is Pira, turns up in Lono’s (the reader) kingdom and says that her father the king is dead. They have to get away now to save Lono’s life. Where will two young princesses go to hide? A magical land called Spera. And so, the adventure begins.
I think that Spera tried to tell an engaging fairy tale with built in gender role options to educate impressionable young girls about who and what they can choose to be, but it didn’t quite work. Graphic novels need more than an interesting characterization idea- to engage reluctant readers, they need to tell a great story. Spera never gets there. The underlying message is sound- let children be who they are. Don’t point girls towards a book or boys towards a sword just because that’s their gender. But frankly, that’s it. The rest of the story, minus a run in with a creepy child, is kind of a non-starter.
Multiple authors contributed to this book so that’s a plus in my mind. Every chapter the reader gets a different artistic interpretation of Pira, Lono, and the fire spirit, Yonder. I gave Spera an extra star on Goodreads just for the artwork. As an adult, I found the variety enjoyable but I could see it being confusing for younger readers. They may not understand why the characters look so different every couple of pages.
Thanks for reading!