Vera Vance, Comics Star

Junior Library Guild Selection

How I Came to Write This Book

The joy for me of writing a series is to give characters from the launch title their own turn in the spotlight. So here, Vera Vance, Nixie’s shy, quiet friend in Nixie Ness, Cooking Star, gets her chance to shine in comic-book camp. I have to confess my own mother was a lot like Vera’s mother in her disdain for comics, so I didn’t grow up reading them. What an adventure I had as I wrote Vera’s story, lugging home huge stacks of comics and graphic novels from the library so I could figure out why Vera loves them so. Most fun for me was dreaming up the fictional comics that Vera and her fellow campers create in the book. I hope Vera’s story will inspire readers to grab pencil and paper and start drawing comics of their own!

Published: 2020

Vera Vance, Comics Star


Vera Vance attends comics-making camp and dreams of attending the final field trip in this installment of the After-School Superstars series. Third-grader Vera Vance is totally into comics, so she is excited to attend an after-school camp devoted to making comics with her friend Nixie (of Nixie Ness, Cooking Star, 2019). Vera has a hard time sticking up for herself, so she suffers through experiences like making a final project with Nixie when she really wants to work on her own project. And when her mom, who values grades and piano but not comics, says no to the camp's final field trip to a comic-con, Vera is crushed, seeing no way to change her mother's mind. But at the last minute, all her camp lessons about the hero's journey and the power of comics come together with Vera's talent to make a pretty brilliant bid for reaching her goal. Vera's shyness will be appreciated and understood by many readers. Her character stays real throughout, and the lovely wrap-up shows how every personality type and situation can find a way to use their strengths to reach their goals. . . [A] satisfying read.

Be prepared to transform into a comic book expert as you follow Vera in her quest to become a comics master. Vera's passion for comic book artistry is encouragingly portrayed throughout her daily activities. She is participating in an after-school comic book camp that her mother doesn't think is educational enough to qualify as a serious pursuit. As Vera learns more about various comic book styles and the techniques which comprise them, she discovers a story about a little spoon's adventures. Even scenes from her life and how they would appear in the style of a comic book are described throughout the text. Through the encouragement of her friends and teachers, Vera works hard to show her mother that she can succeed at comic books as well as schoolwork and piano, all in the hope that she will be granted permission to join her class for a trip to Comic Con. Students who love comics in any form can relate to the realistic and varied characters that depict typical students and personalities. The vocabulary is simple enough for early chapter readers and the interspersed pencil drawings add to the compelling storyline. Some curriculum connection ideas might include using the Create Your Own Super Hero games on the MarvelHQ website to make a unique character; creating your own comic book online using; and working in pairs to draw facial expressions of characters that match their scene and/or bubble dialogue.
-School Library Journal

Readers will enjoy the discussions of comics, the moments of classroom drama, and the fine-tuned, sensitive depiction of Vera’s relationship with her mother. It’s no surprise that Vera’s comic reflects her own situation, emotions, and hopes. The unexpected twist here comes when Little Spoon triumphs by creating a happy ending for Vera’s story as well as her own. A rewarding addition to the After-School Superstars series, which opened with Nixie Ness, Cooking Star (2019).

In her usual assured and friendly style, Mills respectfully tackles some common elementary-grade dilemmas; the confident, funny, and capable characterizations bring Vera’s explorations to vivid life, as Vera worries, new friend Nixie sunnily beams, and Vera’s mother keeps a tight rein on everything. Budding artists will appreciate the respect for and information about the comics process and relate to Vera’s joy at immersing herself in her beloved pastime.
-Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books

Over the course of the month, quiet Vera’s keen observations about her friends, her teachers, and her mom translate to valuable lessons in self-discovery and allow her to grow into her talent as an artist and comics creator. The month ends with a field trip to a comic-con where student art will be recognized, and Vera has to find the right way to persuade her still-reluctant mother to sign the permission slip for her to attend. Heartfelt moments between Vera and her single-parent mother mix with their struggles over the value of comics to create a realistic family dynamic, and honest moments among the third-grade campers keep the chapter book from becoming overly pat. Spot illustrations and an appended list of Vera’s favorite comics and graphic novels add extra punch.
-Horn Book