Claire and the Bakery Thief/Claire and the Water Wish
written by Janice Poon
Claire’s family has just moved from the big city to the countryside. She’s not happy about leaving her friends behind and she doesn’t see how living in the country can be as exciting as city life was. But soon she discovers both friendship and excitement. A new friend named Jet shares Claire’s love of nature and understands her concerns about her family’s troubles. Ever since the move, Claire’s parents fight all of the time. When her mother leaves them for several weeks, though, Claire thinks that there is more to her disappearance than just family problems. More mysteries are afoot when Claire makes another friend, a girl who lives in Lovesick Lake, a poor community whose residents are mysteriously ill. Could there be something wrong with their water source? No matter what the mystery, Claire and Jet are eager to get to the bottom of it!
Poon’s series is appealing because of its earnest nature. Claire is on the cusp of adolescence, but she’s not quite ready to obsess over boys or clothes. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to fit in or be popular, but she also doesn’t want to give up imaginative play in the woods, something that gets her laughed at by the cool girls. Jet and Sky are equally caught between childhood and middle-school life, though in the second book, Jet does achieve some popularity, putting her at odds with Claire. This realistic portrayal of the emotions of not-quite-teen girls is what makes Claire’s stories so believable, even when the mysteries that she gets involved in strain credulity. But the over-the-top nature of Claire’s adventures is part of the fun.
Judging just from the covers, Poon’s art seems awkward to me, but once I was into the story, I found it taking on an appeal all its own. She is careful to draw Claire, Jet, and Sky as not too old, but not too young, so their outside matches their thoughts and dialogue. Poon never lets herself get tied down to any one panel style. Many are squares or rectangles, but she is fearless about going without panels or choosing different shapes if they fit the scene better. Little details are tossed in for humorous effect, such as silly road signs when the girls are trying to navigate the city on their own. There is an environmental component to each book. Claire’s parents run an organic bakery and, in book two, poisoned water is affecting people’s health. Poon also includes activities at the end—recipes in book one and crafts in book two. Educational details round out the story but are never pushed too hard. For example, in Water Wish, there is a drawing of how sunlight through a magnifying glass can start a fire.
Girls who are starting to feel the tugs of womanhood but who aren’t ready to completely give in will appreciate that Claire feels the same way. They’ll like that her adventures and her story aren’t babyish but also aren’t too mature. There is some danger, but nothing to keep readers awake at night. Libraries looking for graphic novels for tween girls would do well to add this mystery series. Hopefully, Poon is working on more volumes!