Lumberjanes is a comic book series about a summer camp for “hardcore lady-types.” Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy is a collection of the first 4 issues, which introduces the characters and gets them started on their adventures—it certainly doesn’t bring a story arc to a close, so expect your young reader to start asking for the next volumes pretty quickly!
Beware the Kitten Holy ties the first 4 issues together with “excerpts” from the Lumberjanes Field Manual. I’m not sure they expect you to actually read those pages, but I was disappointed by the proofreading in several of them. They still offer some fun insight into the badges and the expectations of Lumberjanes.
The comics follow the five girls of one cabin—Molly, Mal, April, Ripley, and Jo—through their supernatural adventures as they try to figure out what’s going on in the woods around their camp. It’s clear that there are other cabins, but we don’t see those girls at all. The five girls are distinct from each other—different personalities, hairstyles, fashion sense, skin color, body types, etc.—but all are competent and clever. The different artists’ renditions of the characters in the back of this volume are interesting in that they demonstrate the girls’ individuality even more.
I read Beware the Kitten Holy on my iPad Kindle app, which is a great way to read graphic novels—you can zoom in on details in the art, the colors are great, etc.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
While Lumberjanes isn’t exactly scary, a child with a vivid imagination might be freaked out by the attack of the three-eyed foxes, the river monster, or the other things lurking in the woods. The art is colorful and playful, but the woods are dangerous and weird.
Violence & Danger
The Lumberjanes kick butt, frequently physically, even when that isn’t the plan and possibly not the best approach. Mal almost drowns. I think each of the girls nearly falls to her death at some point. A golden bow and arrow is the answer to a riddle and may help them solve the mystery.
In addition to being physically capable, the girls are also clever. They have to overcome riddles and different girls have insight into physics, math, and wordplay to help them figure stuff out. Their counselor turned down an internship with the space program to be a camp counselor—a choice she thinks she regrets!
They meet up with a group from a nearby boys’ camp. The boys are all very neat and polite, inviting the girls over for tea. The girls, of course, are mostly rough and tumble, and have just gotten themselves into poison ivy. The boys care for them and feed them—until the camp leader shows up, and he’s the embodiment of stereotypical masculinity. He storms off to “catch a fish by wrestling it away from a bear.” However, the boys are possessed by something that makes them turn rabid. The girls decide they need to figure out how to save the boys, not just to save the boys, but because whatever infected them could get the girls, too.
The girls are constantly trying to ditch Jen, their counselor. She represents the typical adult, who wants them to behave and act “normal.” She doesn’t believe their stories of the things going on in the woods. When Jen decides to turn them over to the camp director, the director mostly sides with the girls—although they still get punished with mucking out the moose stables for breaking rules. At the end of this volume, the counselor realizes that all the stories the girls were telling are true, and the girls are happy that Jen will be working with them from here on out.
Mal and Molly have a budding romance that neither one seems to fully understand yet. Molly gives Mal CPR when she nearly drowns, and it’s described as a smooch. The poignant scene is interrupted by Ripley jumping on Mal’s chest, which is what gets her breathing again.
April and one of the boys seem to have a connection and she can reach him a bit when he’s in the rabid state.
This is a great graphic series for ages 8 and up. Yes, the main characters are girls, but I think it will appeal to any reader who enjoys imaginative and fantastic adventures. I like this collected volume rather than individual issues and I like reading it in electronic format, but if my kids get into this I’ll be considering adding this to our comics subscription. NOTE: One issue with the electronic format—it’s not clear from descriptions if you’re getting the first issue or the first volume, which contains the first four issues. The first time I bought it, I only got issue #1, so I had to buy it again.
This book is the January 2016 Patreon choice.
Lumberjanes Volume 1 by Noelle Stevenson
Published in 2015 by BOOM! Box
First four issues in an ongoing series
Read on my Kindle