Attention Lumberjanes fans: the five teenage adventure-seeking campers of comics and graphic novels fame now have a new middle grade series of illustrated books. Written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Brooklyn Allen (a cocreator of the original series), the series emphasizes the same values of inclusion, friendship, and teamwork that infuse the Lumberjanes comics. The series opener, Lumberjanes #1: Unicorn Power! which debuted last month, welcomes readers back to Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. In this adventure, the scouts hike up the tallest mountain they’ve ever seen and discover that it may not be a mountain at all—and they just might encounter unicorns.
Like her creature-vanquishing and butt-kicking heroines, Tamaki is always up for a challenge, and she faced several when she agreed—eagerly—to sign on as author of the new Lumberjanes series. Though she has created numerous graphic novels writing a novel was, well, a novel experience for the author. “I initially remembered back to the illustrated novels I loved as a kid, books like Harriet the Spy,” she recalls. “I love the way that the illustrations add to the orchestra of different voices and mannerisms.”
Adding a spinoff to an existing series presented its own challenge. “We wanted the new series to be something that can be a reader’s first experience with Lumberjanes, but also fit in well with the existing series, in terms of characters and story lines,” Tamaki notes. “That was a bit of a challenge. But the Lumberjanes characters are so vibrant that it was less stressful than I had anticipated, and the new stories came relatively easily. Tamaki, who has just finished the final edits on her second Lumberjanes novel, The Moon Is Up (due out May 2018), has learned the importance of following through on the hints and clues she provides in a prior installment. “I realized that when I set something up, I have to make it happen!” she says. “I have to make sure that my present-tense self agrees with my past-tense self. With my second Lumberjanes novel, I was a bit more cautious about that.”
Though Tamaki says she has been an ardent fan of Lumberjanes since the first comics appeared, and that she has long admired illustrator Brooklyn Allen’s work, she had some mild—but short-lived—concerns after agreeing to write the new series. I like that this is a series about a women-centric universe that breaks out of stereotypes. It is so nice to write books without any viciousness among the girl characters. That is a positive, characterizing part of Lumberjanes that I really love.”