Melanie Gillman is one of my favourite artists. I even support them on Patreon–which I highly recommend, because you get to read their travel diary comics and sometimes you get little zine-style comics in the mail. You might remember their YA graphic novels, As the Crow Flies and Stage Dreams, which are both queer and excellent. This collection of queer fairy tale comics is aimed a middle grade audience, but it will appeal to readers of any age.
I always love Gillman’s intricate pencil crayon illustrations, and this collection is no different. Despite having a cohesive style throughout, each face is distinctive and recognizable, and I appreciate how much the women’s facial features vary (no Pixar faces here). Each page is a joy to look at, and there are so many panels I’d love framed and hanging in my room.
As it says on the tin, these are queer fairy tales, and despite being original, they really capture the timeless feel of a fairy tale that’s been around for many generations. The cadence also reminds me of classic fairy tales, with some stories using repetition just as oral storytellers do.
Of course, these aren’t classic fairy tales, and they all feature queer characters, most of whom are sapphic. A ranger who falls for a girl sneaking around in the woods she protects. A princess who tries to convince the beautiful goose girl to marry her. A giantess who isn’t the monster the villagers make her out to be.
I appreciate that Gillman always knows the precise moment to end each story. I often wished there was just one panel more, but I knew I was wrong; it had to end exactly there.
I’ve been running the Lesbrary for more than a decade now, so let me be indulgent and say that I’m so glad books like this exist now. Not long ago, there were no middle grade queer books, and it’s only in the last handful of years that it’s expanded. Now, kids can read these beautiful queer fairy tales! It’s also feminist, with characters dismantling unjust power structures, and an ending that made me want to punch the air in triumph–while these stories stand on their own, there are a few that cross over.
I had some of these in zine format (they were 24-Hour Comics Day comics from previous years), but I’m very happy to have the whole collection and to read the ones I haven’t encountered before. Buy this for a kid in your life and then buy it for yourself. I love this collection.