________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 15. . . .December 16, 2017


The Greatest of Marlys!

Lynda Barry.
Montreal, QC: Drawn & Quarterly, 2016.
248 pp., hardcover, $29.95.
ISBN 978-1-77046-264-9.

Subject Heading:
Graphic novels.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

*** /4




In my cousin Marlys’s backyard was the clothesline T-pole which we love to hang upside down on. In fact, we were becoming pure experts at it.

If you hook your legs just right and swing, there’s this feeling you can get like your pants are itching you in this most perfectly gorgeous way.

And when you let your arms hang down and close your eyelashes so there’s the sparkling rays and your dog comes over and licks your hand, well, how can you resist it?

My aunt yells out the window watch it, the blood’s gonna rush to your heads and you’ll pass out and fall off and crack your skulls, but me and Marlys agree. It would still be totally worth it.

Christmas pageant

“Oh holy night the stars are brightly shining” Marlys sings over and over for practice as all of us walk in the dark over the frozen mud in the alley on our way up to the school. Arnold jumps and busts all the ice he can find. It’s the night of the school pageant.

When we turn the corner, we see the whole school just completely lit up. Cars are driving up and down dropping people off and there’s everybody everywhere yelling “Hi! Hi! Hiya!” Arnold sees his friend Steve and takes off running.

Marlys and Freddy report to their rooms but I’m not nothing in the pageant this year so I can just go walking around the halls noticing how being in your school at night makes everything feel like it’s on another planet.

I climb the stairs to the 2nd floor and look out the window and see them shut the doors to the gym. Oh no. It’s starting. I run down the hall, down the steps, down the hall and skid in front of the boys’ lavatory. Nobody’s around anywhere. I dare myself to go inside. I open the door and see their stalls, their sinks, their mirror. Then who know why I scream “Merry Christmas from Arna Arneson!” and tear out of there, out of the school and across the breezeway into the gym.


The Greatest of Marlys! is a compilation of Lynda Barry’s syndicated comic strips featuring eight-year-old Marlys Mullen. The earliest comics date back to the 1980’s, and the last in the book are from the year 2000.

     There is a cast of characters throughout the stories, including Marlys and her older sister Maybonne, her younger brother Freddie and various other family members and friends. Marlys seems to be an optimistic and happy child, but she still faces all of the emotions of growing up. We see her with friends in the neighbourhood, with teachers at school and at family events.

     Since there is no particular plot line running through the book, readers can read as much or as little as they wish at any one time. The comics, themselves, are presented in black and white, and the illustrations are very busy, incorporating a lot of words as well as many visual details.

     Young readers will relate to Marlys despite the fact that some of the comic strips are now 30 years old. There is an endearing quality to the stories, and Marlys exemplifies many of the adventures of pre-adolescents. Barry does an excellent job of capturing the voice and attitude of a young girl. Older readers will enjoy the more poignant and nostalgic moments, and the comics will bring back memories of childhood for many.


Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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