________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 40. . . .June 18, 2010


Alison Dare, Heart of the Maiden.

J. Torres. Illustrated by J. Bone.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2010.
99 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-935-1.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Jonine Bergen.

**˝ /4


I have a confession to make. I love graphic novels. I particularly enjoy when the illustrations blend seamlessly with the text to tell a good tale as in Alison Dare, Heart of the Maiden, republished by Tundra Books. The black and white illustrations move the eye through the panels, emphasizing the emotions and focusing the reader on particular clues to the text or plot. J. Bone’s illustrations add character and dimensionality to the text of J. Torres. Simply, J. Bone’s work brings this work to life.

    Alison Dare is a gutsy 12-year-old with a taste of adventure. With an archaeologist mother, a superhero father, and an international spy for an uncle, it should come as no surprise that Alison lives up to her last name. Like Nancy Drew, she and her friends cannot help but be drawn into a good mystery. However, there is more to Alison than her sleuthing ability; she is also an adventurer who is more interested in shinnying down the side of a building than the average teenage girl.

     internal artAlison Dare, Heart of the Maiden, previously published as volume 2 of Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventures, is comprised of eight episodes loosely strung together chronologically. Like any good comic book, each episode can stand on its own. However, like a graphic novel, a single plot meanders through the chapters. Indeed, the first seven adventures could be chapters in one story, with the last adventure, “The Heart of the Maiden,” beginning another separate, though related tale.

     The reader meets Alison as she is recounting the adventure she had during the summer on an archaeological dig with her mother. While Alison’s story, complete with scorpions, mummies, a curse, a sandstorm and a handsome hero, holds some of the girls spellbound, the story is unbelievable to the other students sitting in the classroom of St. Joan’s Academy for Girls. The tension developed by the question of the accuracy of Alison’s renditions is repeated throughout the book. The second episode, for example, tells Alison’s tale through the eyes of her mother’s assistant – without the embellishments of the previous tale.

    My main complaint with Alison Dare, the Heart of the Maiden is it cannot stand comfortably on its own. The first of the series, Alison Dare, little Miss Adventures, is a necessary precursor if one is to understand the characters and their interactions. Also, Heart of the Maiden ends abruptly in the middle of the tale, leaving the story unfinished and the reader confused. The third part of the series is yet unpublished by Tundra.  As a result, I would not recommend purchasing Alison Dare, the Heart of the Maiden as an independent purchase. One must purchase this series together.

   Meeting Alison Dare initially with The Heart of the Maiden is akin to eating the middle of the donut: well-intentioned, but not particularly satisfying.

Recommended with reservations.

Jonine Bergen is a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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