by J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog
Kate Jameson loved her little brother Matt. After her father left, her mother was too preoccupied to spend much time with the children, so Kate took care of Matt. Every night she would read to him from his favorite series, Abadazad, a series of books about a little girl named Little Martha who goes to a fantasy world. When Matt disappears at a street festival, Kate is devastated. She blames herself, but she also blames her mother for not being there. Now, five years later, fourteen-year-old Kate is an angry, bitter teenager. But then the elderly woman who lives in a nearby apartment claims to be Little Martha, and tells Kate that Matt isn’t dead. Could it be possible? Kate wants to believe, but it sounds too crazy. But Kate is about to discover that things aren’t always as they seem.
I have to confess that I wasn’t enthused about reading Abadazad. It’s a hybrid between a text novel and a graphic novel, and I’m more of a word person. It’s hard for me to decipher those little pictures and figure out what’s going on. But when I turned the page and saw an illustration of the cover of the fictional book-within-a-book Little Martha in Abadazad, by Franklin O. Davies, I knew that I was going to like Abadazad: the cover of Little Martha looks like the cover of an Oz book, and it’s clear that the Abadazad series is a tribute to the Oz books.
Davies wrote, I dunno, nineteen or twenty Abadazad books that were all published between 1898 and 1924, starting with Little Martha, then Queen Ija of Abadazad, The Eight Oceans of Abadazad, Professor Headstrong of Abadazad, The Enchanted Gardens of Abadazad, The Balloonicorn of Abadazad, The Edges of Abadazad, The— Well, I think you get the idea. After Franklin O. died, his daughter, PJ Davides, wrote fifteen more. There are still people writing Abadazad stories today.
Abadazad is edgy and fun, and the authors manage to pack a surprising amount in such a short book. The graphic novel sections are short enough that even an old fogey like me could handle them, but the graphic sections and the short, easy to read text make this a book that will appeal to reluctant readers. I liked the idea that Little Martha was really an African-American, and Davies changed her in the books to make it more appealing to middle America, but I wish that the real Little Martha was depicted wearing something other than overalls and a straw hat—it just seemed to me to be a stereotyped image. OK, so I guess she’s dressed like that because she’s supposed to be a turn-of-the-century farm girl, but hey, this is Abadazad. Couldn’t she be dressed in any way she wanted to?