I’ve been a fan of dear Sanity and Tallulah, the two girl space detectives and best friends since their earlier showings as standouts on Comixology Firsts. Back in 2014, the girls were created by Molly Brooks when a friend of hers Andrea Tsurumi, whom she credits on the thank you page in the book, for agreed to do a minicomic zine with Brooks and then suggesting that the theme should be ‘science fiction teen girl detectives’. Now Sanity and Tallulah’s adventures have expanded to a graphic novel series for the middle school audience picked up by Disney-Hyperion for a three-book deal and this one is book one!
So the book’s synopsis reads:
“It can get pretty dull living on a small, out-of-the-way station like Wilnick SS. Best friends Sanity Jones and Tallulah Vega do their best to relieve the monotony of everyday space life by finding adventures, solving mysteries, and taking turns getting each other into and out of trouble. But when Sanity’s latest science project—an extremely-illegal-but-impossibly-cute three-headed kitten— escapes from the lab and starts causing general havoc, the girls will have to turn the station upside down to find her—before the damage becomes irreversible!”
For those new to Brooks’s art: the unique color scheme has some influence from her background in letterpress printing, the line work is done by hand as that’s real-life ink that she scans back into color. Everything else is done digitally: the coloring, the lettering, the flattening. It’s a neat mix of digital and India ink. It is also a very illustrative example of how different mediums make up comics and the making of comics nowadays which may be eye-opening for all the young comic enthusiasts and budding artists that are reading nowadays.
While the fun character models aren’t terribly complex, there is attention to detail in their facial expressions which adds meat to the silliness or severity of a situation. The lettering is neatly added: seeing a ‘CLANK’ just in the right place where a falling Sanity tumbles out an air duct at an opportune time when adults are looking for her fire is appropriate to all the beeps, TUNKS and KRREEEEKS.
On the topic of paneling and choosing how to frame the narrative in such a visual medium I really appreciate Brooks way of doing so in a way that doesn’t make things stuffy. There’s nearly a handful of full paged spreads that showcase just how big the space station is and all the many types of people that make their home there.
The most endearing element of Sanity and Tallulah’s adventures that I’ve enjoyed from them before their big book debut is that these girls always save the day and I’m glad to report that very theme has transitioned over from the zine format to graphic novel format without losing any of that awesome message–not that I had any doubt!
Best Friends, Mad Science
The girls remain curious, bright inquiring minds that are growing up in a place that’s unfamiliar to most of us: a space station yet they are soaking up everything they observe, learn and happen to uncover while exploring. Granted, Sanity is the more reserved, more level-headed out of the two while Tallulah is the more spontaneous, happy go lucky type the two best friends compliment each other well and together they are the dream team that wins our hearts over by the end of the book. It is so important to see girls centered in narratives that involve S.T.E.M. minded activities and circumstances. It is so important to see girls centered in narratives located in space located in the science fiction genre which may very well have been started by a woman, a teen girl at that but hasn’t always been kind to women.
And I can’t stress how important it is to see girls of color centered in diverse narratives that present them as important! This book features our dear Sanity Jones who is Black and her BFF Tallulah Vega-Davisson who is biracial with a Latinx mother and a white father. I was so stoked to see the girls’ world expanded to include some of their families which make up a superb support cast with Sanity’s father Darren a station director and Tallulah’s mother, Soledad in a similarly high ranking position. I’d be remiss to make note of Tallulah’s super chill dad Hank who has a leg prosthesis.
Can I wax poetically about the parents in this read being loving adults who are firm when they need to yet always want the best for their kids–which means believing in them and their abilities even in the worst circumstances? There was also a brilliant thread of a what looks to be a minor plot bunny with Tallulah’s dad and her brother about not being pressured to shape your dreams into what you think is what everyone else is doing but to follow your own path and passions that I sincerely hope to see continued in the next book.
I just can’t get enough of seeing fictional parents treating their children with respect for their autonomy and a desire to see them blossom–which is just sorely lacking, to be honest. I love this trend of fictional parents standing in the corner for their kids and valuing their opinions–I hope this trend continues for the sci-fi genre! I also really loved seeing the small moments like sitting down and eating dinner as a family (with a friend tagging along) which feels monumental to me in terms of presenting families sitting now together, regardless if many see it as a throwaway panel.
Girls Save The Day
I was disappointed in not seeing Sanity’s mom and sister at all in, yet, I did read that they will show up in future books so I am sated for now eager to see them in the panels soon.
Lastly, I believe Sanity and Tallulah will be a welcomed read for the 8-12 aged crowd that younger readers will devour. There are several themes that run through the book that reader will digest and can serve as talking points to share with friends or Mom and Dad. These include accountability, growing up and having more responsibilities and experiencing and dealing with intense feelings–like the ones that come with having a lost pet. There’s a lot of laughs and the science-y parts aren’t overwhelming so it’s not an advanced read. There are many surprises, lots of teamwork and the grownups never outshine the kids.
All in all, this is a fun book where girls and best friends save the day and no one holds them back because of their gender. It’s a book where shenanigans are promised, parents are champions of their children while also taking care of big tasks–like getting the engines on space stations back on and running safely evacuating large masses of people.
Sanity and Tallulah is a treat and is a book I’ve loved and plan to buy copies for young, bright inquiring minds in my life that aren’t in space quite yet that like to read about girls being heroes.
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Been a fan of these preteen girl space detectives who are always getting into trouble and getting involved with mad science for a while now., following their earlier web comic/zine humble beginnings. Super glad to see them in their first book in a planned series for the ages 8-12 crowd! Thanks to @disneybooks for the review copy! I love reading about girls saving the day! #sanityandtallulah #mollybrooks #disneyhyperion #bnplit #girlssavetheday
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