Title: Whistle, A New Gotham City Hero
Author: E. Lockhart
Illustrator: Manuel Preitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Publishing Date: 2021
Genre/Format of the Item: Book-Graphic Novel
Reading Level/Interest Level:
Grades 7-12 (NoveList)
Plot Summary: Willow Zimmerman lives with her mom in Gotham City. Willow is both an activist and a high school student, determined to make her city a better place. Her mom has cancer and can no longer work and so Willow takes a job at a local vet clinic to try to make ends meet. Willow’s “Uncle” Eddie Nachtberger (aka E. Nigma) is an old family friend who contacts Willow and gives her some money for overdue bills. E. Nigma runs an underground gambling circle and invites Willow to work for him. Willow agrees and begins to make a lot of money. She is able to get her mom the medical care that she needs and pay their bills with her new job. Willow’s personal life at school is suffering as her new job begins taking over her life.
One day Willow is attacked by Killer Croc and she gains some surprise new powers. She and her dog are able to communicate and Willow can hear as well as a canine. Willow begins to realize that the people that she is working for are actually destroying her city. She decides to use her new powers for good and becomes the superhero Whistle. Whistle finds a way to prevent an attack on the city but realizes that she can’t give up her job just yet. Willow vows to use her job and her powers to defend her city and protect her family.
Author Background: E. Lockhart (Emily Lockhart) is a bestselling author of numerous books including We Were Liars, Family of Liars, Again Again, Genuine Fraud, Fly on the Wall, Dramarama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Whistle. Lockhart was awarded a Printz Award honor and was a finalist for the National Book Award for the book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Ban. She received her Doctorate in English Literature from Columbia University (Lockhart, n.d.).
Critical Evaluations: This graphic novel was excellent. I loved that DC Comics reached out to Lockhart and gave her the freedom to create new teen superheroes and re-imagine the old characters (Semel, 2021). Manuel Preitano’s artwork has a very Noir feel to it, using darker tones and an older style of drawing. The panels are varied and the gutters are sometimes non-existent between panels. Although the illustrations have an older generation comic book feel to them, the challenges and issues in the book are current. Lockhart was able to create a story that is contemporary and easy to relate to for teens. I think that the choices between “good” and “bad” that Willow must make are something that teenagers may also feel that they can relate to. I like how Lockhart allowed for Willow to stay at her job with the rationale that she was using the job as a way to gain intel to use to fight the crooks. Religion is woven into the book in a very subtle way and gives added context to Willow’s life and the choices that she makes. I think that this will be a very fun new series to read for teens and adults alike!
Creative Use for a Library Program: I think that this book could be highlighted for a teen graphic novel extravaganza. This could be on a Saturday afternoon and held in the library’s large community room. There would be many different graphic novels displayed as well as tables with drawing tutorials around the room. The teens could go to different tables and learn the elements that help create a succesful graphic novel (illustrations, text, storyline, etc). Teens could then submit their own mini graphic novels to be displayed around the teen room.
Speedround/Book Trailer: Willow Zimmerman is an activist at heart. She believes in doing the right thing and protecting her family and beloved city. One day she is given an opportunity to earn more money than she thought possible, but she comes to realize that money has a price. Willow will have to decide if she is willing to sacrifice her ideals or the money that is paying for her mom’s cancer treatments. Oh, and she just might gain some superpowers along the way! Read Whistle to find out more!
Potential Challenge Issues/Defense Preparations: This book may be challenged because there are some curse words in the text. I would say that teenagers are very familiar with explicit language and they might find that they can relate more to language that mirrors everyday life. Willow makes a conscious decision to stay at her job, which some may disagree with morally. I think that Willow is doing her best to get her mom the medication that she needs and using her job as a way to find out information that she can then use to fight against the corruption. Overall, I think that this book is a good mix of realistic situations and superhero action adventure.
Reason for Inclusion: I wanted to include some graphic novels in my blog and this one was definitely high on my list. I really liked that the book dealt with the struggle between doing the right thing and doing what you have to do to survive (providing the necessary meds for Willow’s mom). I thought that teenagers will be able to relate to some of Willow’s story and it was nice to see some diverse characters and a new DC Comic hero, especially a strong female protagonist.
Graphic Policy. (2021, September 18). Whistle: a New Gotham City Hero. writer E. Lockhart [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCSmbNrioCE
Lockhart, E. (n.d.). About. E. Lockhart. http://www.emilylockhart.com/about-e
Semel, P. (2021, September 9). Exclusive interview: “Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero” Author E. Lockhart. Paul Semel. https://paulsemel.com/exclusive-interview-whistle-a-new-gotham-city-hero-author-e-lockhart/