Lumberjanes is one of those series that I wish had been around when I was a kid. Filled with fun adventures and a memorable cast of characters, it’s hard not to fall in love with the Lumberjanes and Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. From BOOM! Studios’s YA imprint BOOM! Box, Lumberjanes: The Shape of Friendship is the second Lumberjanes graphic novel, penned by Lilah Sturges with illustrations by polterink. Being a Lumberjanes fan (thanks to editing reviews for WWAC), I knew what to expect going in, and The Shape of Friendship doesn’t disappoint.
Lumberjanes: The Shape of Friendship
Jim Campbell (letters), polterink (illustrator), Alexa Sharpe (cover artist), Lilah Sturges (writer)
November 26, 2019
Friendship finds our Lumberjanes (Jo, Mal, Molly, April, and Ripley) battling a hydra at the nearby boys’ camp. With Jen and Barney in the clutches of the beast and the rest of the boys cowering in fear, Jo quickly devises a way to defeat the creature by using calculus! After skillfully defeating the hydra, the ‘janes return to their camp. Scout leader Jen warns the girls, as she always does, not to go wandering off in the woods after lights out. As they always do, the Lumberjanes ignore her warning and set off to find adventure.
Jo invites Barney from the boys’ camp to come along and they set off exploring. They discover magical beings known as Pookas hiding in a deep cave. Pookas are little shape-shifting bundles of cuteness and are very curious about their new visitors and the outside world. More specifically, they are curious about the Lumberjanes camp and want to see it for themselves. The Pookas imprison the ‘janes and shift into Jo, Mal, Molly, April, and Ripley.
With the camp in danger, the Lumberjanes, with the help of Barney, get free and start exploring the winding caves that the Pookas call home. Sturges balances each scene with the ‘janes with the main focus being on the budding friendship between Barney and Jo, much to April’s (Jo’s bff) worry. As they navigate the caves, April becomes more anxious about being replaced as Jo’s best friend by Barney. Emotions run high and hidden jealousy ensues … we’ve all been there. Meanwhile, back at camp, the Pooka-janes stun Jen by not misbehaving and getting excited about doing crafts.
This, along with a dog showing up in a tuxedo, makes Jen start to get suspicious. After all, when did the girls actually get enthusiastic about crafts and working towards their badges? These humorous scenes with the Pookas and Jen are a nice balance from the mild conflicts in the cave. I say mild conflict because this is Lumberjanes, not life and death, we know the issues will get resolved by the end of the story.
Lumberjanes has always been about friendship and its meaning to each individual Lumberjane. The Shape of Friendship really drives that point home with exploring Jo and April’s relationship. Near the end of the book when the ‘janes confront the Pookas, Jo tells April what their friendship means to her, “You stood by me during the hardest part of my life. When I realized I was a girl, you were the first person I told. And you always stood up for me.” (There’s a reason Lumberjanes keeps getting Eisner nominations and winning several GLAAD awards.)
Having not read the previous Lumberjanes graphic novel, Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass, polterink’s artwork was a huge surprise when I opened the book. I was expecting strong, vibrant colors and lines like in the Lumberjanes comics. Instead, polterink used minimalistic shades of grey and used only pink to highlight or shade certain panels. This stark contrast to Carolyn Nowak’s illustrations in the LJ series made me immediately take notice.
I found myself studying the comic panels more closely than I would in a normal full-color graphic novel. It was fun to study each panel and wonder why polterink chose to color the sky, animals, or an object pink. Sometimes it’s significant, sometimes it’s not. When the Lumberjanes get lost in the cave the girls use a ball of pink yarn so they don’t get lost. It’s a very unique way of making the colors (and lack thereof) really stand out and I absolutely loved it.
If you’re new to the Lumberjanes series, I highly suggest reading the first handful of volumes of the Lumberjanes comics, that way you get a good feel for the world, characters, and each ‘janes personality before reading The Shape of Friendship. The Lumberjanes series, co-created by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooklyn Allen, and Noelle Stevenson, keeps expanding because of its enthusiastic and dedicated fanbase. Not only has Lumberjanes crossed over with DC’s Gotham Academy but also has a handful of middle-grade novels by publisher Abrams Books. With the combination of Sturges’s writing and polterink’s illustrations, The Shape of Friendship is a great addition to the ever-growing Lumberjanes library.