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The War at Ellsmere Paperback – December 18, 2008

8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Longtime Web cartoonist Hicks has written a spot-on graphic novel for girls who are too young or not yet jaded enough for Gossip Girl and its clones. Ellsmere is a posh boarding school where the titular war is one of class: the snooty rich bullies versus new girl Juniper (the year’s “scholarship project”) and her roommate, who is nicknamed the Orphan because her family provides her with no emotional support. By introducing an element of fantasy to support the message that being true to yourself is the right way to live your life, Hicks gives readers enough tension and quirky turns to satisfy and pleasantly surprise. Her loopy black-and-white art does a fine job of distinguishing the girls from each other, and Ellsmere is depicted as both traditional (plaid uniforms) as well as contemporary (laptops in the dorm rooms). Not just for kids with boarding-school fantasies, this comic should also be handed to budding writers and storytellers. Juniper is a fully developed, eminently realistic character whose self-confidence and emotional intelligence make her a role model not only for her classmates but also for readers who are less sure of themselves or haven’t yet discovered how to channel their own creativity. Grades 5-8. --Francisca Goldsmith

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: SLG Publishing (December 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159362140X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593621407
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven R. McEvoy on January 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
I need to preface this review by stating that I always wanted to go to a prep or military school. The whole concept of it appeals to my personality and temperament. This book shines a somewhat different light than my previous expectations. The War at Ellsmere is a book primarily about a young scholarship student at a very pretentious school. Juniper is 13 years old and has won a scholarship to the Ellsmere Academy. She wants to use her time there to give her a better chance at post secondary education. She has more street smarts than most of the students at the school, and for the most part cares less what others think, as long as she does well in school to better her future. But soon she has a sworn enemy in Emily, a girl with a silver spoon, and a major attitude. The artwork is amazing and the story intense. It was a great story that I have already read three times and know I will read again in the future.
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Format: Paperback
Juniper is a scholarship student joining Ellsmere Academy, a private girls’ school she’s attending for its excellent academic record. Being away from her home and family is a challenge for her, but her most immediate battle is with Emily, queen bee.

Jun didn’t expect to make friends, which is good, since her refusal to kowtow and take up her designated position as needy poor girl puts her on the outs. She even accidentally insults her gentle roommate Cassie on the first day. Cassie, unfortunately, is used to it, being low girl in the ranks until now.

It’s an involving picture of how some situations seem inevitable in their development. Jun expects trouble, so she puts up a tough shield that aggravates her new classmates. The mean girls take the bait, and Jun rubs their faces in it, giving back more than she got, because she couldn’t resist the opening. Jun’s not perfect, but she’s also not deserving of how the grudge war escalates.

Messing with a smart girl is a bad idea, on both sides, and some of their rivalry is pure academic jealousy. Both are used to being top of their class, and obviously, that can’t still be true for both of them. Emily’s concerned about Jun giving the other girls “ideas” about changing around the established hierarchy, the one that benefits her. Plus, Emily is incredibly skilled at finding just the right location to drive her emotional knives. Some of the tactics are shocking for teens to contemplate, let alone execute.

Hicks’ blocky, big-headed art reminds me of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim; this book would be a good choice for a fan of that series looking for something to read next. The style foregrounds the characters’ emotions, making their expressions central.
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Format: Paperback
This is my personal favorite of Hicks’s projects so far. Juniper is a 13 year old smart girl whose family has no money. A scholarship to an elite boarding school seems like just the ticket. Until she gets there and earns the enmity of the ruling Mean Girl. You know what else is more interesting than she had anticipated? Whatever's lurking in the forest nearby.

One thing I love about Hicks' work is that no character is ever a stereotype. Even the Mean Girl. Everything doesn't wrap up at the end in a pretty bow either. But you feel pretty good about Jun's future.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
A romantic mansion turned into a boarding school. A mysterious forest. A bookish outsider and a nasty clique. Either this setting will make you perk up with interest or leave you cold, but don't be fooled by Ellsmere's respectable and traditional veneer. Like the titular boarding school itself, there are depths, horrors and rewards awaiting those who venture past the stately facade. The War at Ellsmere is indeed a charming boarding school tale spiced with just a dash of magical realism. Yet Faith Erin Hick's work rises above the field crowded with aimless Harry Potter wannabees and tomes of inflated autobiographical anguish.

The witty self awareness of the dialog is sharp enough to amuse, yet never falls into the trap of it's own cleverness. Through out it all our heroines Juniper and Cassie remain authentic to subtle insecurities and character triumphs of teenagers. Equally notable is the absolutely engrossing artwork. With bold black ink strokes and an occasional gray wash Hick manages to draw an amazing range of scenes both intimate and expansive. Yet it the girls roaming the halls of Ellsmere that are the most remarkable. The combination of subject and medium is a recipe for simplified caricatures differentiated only by stereotypical attributes, but Hick's young protagonists are anything but. Juniper's tomboyish dress and sullen defensiveness change in a flash to a mischievous determination all while remaining unmistakably her. Cassie's art work is even more remarkable, capturing both her ethereal elfin features and unspoken emotions in a handful of heavy dark lines. Even our antagonists individual fashion sense deserves note.

Are there negatives? Of course, but I'm not writing a school essay or proving my critical chops by nitpicking a creation I would be proud of myself. Hick's work was a delightful surprise and personally I can't wait for her next creation. In fact I think I'll go order more of her books now...
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