Super Boba Café

Nidhi Chanani gets inventively magical in Super Boba Café, the first of a planned graphic series. "I survived," Aria announces to herself as she deplanes from her LAX-SFO flight--her first alone!--into Nainai's (grandmother) waiting arms. She's been forced on a "tech detox" after an incident at school and will be spending the summer with Nainai who immediately makes her feel welcome.

Nainai owns the titular Super Boba Café and runs it alone, unwilling to share her super boba recipe, even with her granddaughter. The sweet shop is open every day but rarely busy, giving Aria all sorts of ideas for increasing traffic. Nainai refuses to change her classic flavors, but that doesn't mean Aria can't experiment with some unique combinations: rose taro becomes Aria's new fave, although Nainai sticks to "classic strawberry." Even Bao, the café kitty, helps, birthing "eight surprises" whose adorability has customers lining up for cuddles. Despite all the success, though, Aria doesn't understand why Nainai disappears every evening for "mystery time." Figuring out why just might save the world!

Chanani's delectable graphic novel is another burst of effusive panels, and her use of expressive, wide-eyed close-ups is especially affecting. Also appetizing are snapshots of diverse food--"Nainai cooks boba all day, so she orders take out for every meal." Chanani (Pashmina; Jukebox) denotes past and present by changing color palettes, overlaying browns and oranges to signal the past, keeping the present in vivid color. Meanwhile, Aria's parting "Maybe I'll be back next summer" bodes well for more toothsome adventures to come. --Terry Hong

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