I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I frequently do. I like a good book cover that can catch my attention when I see it at the library or the bookstore. The comic Sheets has a cover that caught my eye when I walked past it. The adorable drawing of a ghost sitting in a washing machine made me curious to see what the comic was about. I’m so glad that Sheets caught my eye because it was a joy to read. Sheets is written and drawn by Brenna Thummler. It tells the story of Marjorie, a thirteen-year-old girl who has to act like an adult since her mother died. She is in charge of running the family laundromat and has to take care of her little brother. Her father has shut down since her mom died and only makes brief appearances in her life. Marjorie starts experiencing strange things at her laundromat when Wendell, the ghost of an 11-year-old boy, decides to live in the laundromat. Sheets has a lovable main character, a wonderful ghost story, and it honestly talks about grief and trauma.
The main character of Sheets is Marjorie, and I absolutely adore her. I knew I would love Marjorie when she described ghost decorations at her school as “deformed marshmallows.” That description made me laugh out loud. Marjorie is a quiet person, but on the inside she is incredibly witty. On the outside Marjorie is drawn with very sad eyes. Thummler shows on Marjorie’s face that she is in a lot of pain and she is exhausted. Drawing Marjorie this way made me feel very protective of her. She has had to grow up very fast, and the people in her town are not always understanding. Marjorie has to run a laundromat all by herself and her customers are rude to her and are critical of how she runs her business. I wanted to yell at every customer who was rude to Marjorie, she’s doing her absolute best and I couldn’t figure out why the customers didn’t see that.
While there are a lot of characters who are mean to Marjorie, there are characters who try to reach out and help her too. Two of those characters are the P.E. teacher, Mr. Duncan, and his wife, Kel. They speak kindly to Marjorie, and Mr. Duncan tries to joke around with her. I really appreciated Kel acknowledging how hard of a worker Marjorie is and telling her to ignore the rude people. The scenes with Mr. Duncan and Kel stood out to me because you can see Marjorie start to smile a little and the sadness melts away for a second. But Marjorie struggles to accept their help and her happiness is brief. Marjorie’s story shows how hard it can be to open up about grief and to reach out when you are struggling.
I loved reading about Marjorie, but I’m also obsessed with the ghosts in this story. I’ve never read a ghost story like Sheets. The ghosts live in the Land of Ghosts, which has laws, support groups, and spas. What I love about the ghosts is how much personality they each have. Thummler draws the ghosts to look like sheet ghosts that people wear on Halloween. I don’t think of sheet ghosts as having a lot of personality, but Thummler has proved me wrong. Her ghosts wear glasses, headbands, and bow ties. The ghosts raise their eyebrows, cross their arms, and look worried. These details make each ghost in the story unique.
Wendell is the main ghost in the story. He is the ghost of an 11-year-old boy who died in a tragic accident. Wendell is a very sweet character, but he doesn’t fit in with the other ghosts. Like Marjorie, Wendell has trouble talking about his grief. Instead of sharing with the other ghosts what happened to him, he makes up stories about how he died. This annoys the other ghosts and pushes them away. Wendell lacking a connection to the other ghosts leads to him leaving the Land of Ghosts and going into the real world. Wendell has the best of intentions in the real world, but on multiple occasions he makes a mess in Marjorie’s laundromat. Wendell is a character that can make you laugh with his stories, and then he can break your heart. As the story goes on, more of Wendell’s past comes out, and his past is heartbreaking. I think every reader will feel emotional when Wendell talks about what he remembers and he says, “I remember my lion hat.” That small line broke my heart and made me want to hug a ghost.
Wendell and Marjorie are both dealing with heavy amounts of grief, and I was rooting for them to bond and open up to each other about their grief. Marjorie lacks a support system, and Wendell does not take advantage of the support system the ghosts are trying to offer him. Their friendship shows how important it is to meet the right person who can understand what you have been through. Even when Marjorie lashes out at Wendell, he still tries to help. Wendell doesn’t abandon Marjorie in her grief, he brings the ghosts to Marjorie, and she is able to ask the questions she has about her mother’s death. Wendell and Marjorie have a wonderful friendship, and the final drawing of the two of them overcoming their fear together is absolutely beautiful.
Sheets has quickly become one of my favorite comics, and I have already recommended it to several people. I appreciate that it is a comic written for younger audiences that talks about serious topics like the death of a parent, the challenges of grief, and bullying. It does not sugar coat these issues just because it is made for a younger audience. Marjorie and Wendell are both characters readers can relate to and their journey through grief is worth reading. If you enjoy reading about Marjorie and Wendell there is a sequel to Sheets called Delicates.