Well meaning but insubstantial.



This amuse-bouche introduction to LGBTQ+ individuals will tantalize readers.

Some 25 racially diverse Americans’ lives are documented in biographical morsels, arranged apparently arbitrarily and with text that’s not substantial enough to do more than tease. Figures profiled include White humanitarian Jane Addams, African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, Puerto Rican performer Ricky Martin, and White filmmakers Lana and Lilly Wachowski. Each entry provides the subject’s year of birth (and of death, when applicable), a photo (in a digitally rendered frame reminiscent of 1990s clip art), and a few scant facts about each subject. George Takei, the Japanese American actor and activist, and Dr. Sara Josephine Baker, a White public health innovator, are lucky enough to merit two whole paragraphs; everyone else receives only one. Absent from all profiles are many common facts typically found in traditional biographies: Exact date of birth, place of birth, date of death, place of death, cause of death, etc., are all missing. Also peculiar is the absence from several profiles of the specific aspect of LGBTQ+ identity that warrants their inclusion. The backmatter includes a listing of 14 additional figures, summarized in two to three sentences each; such audience-relevant figures as African American author Jacqueline Woodson and Black/biracial actor Amandla Stenberg are relegated to this roundup. There are also a timeline that stops at 2015 (well before Trump administration politics started cutting into trans rights), a glossary, source notes, and three URLs for support networks.  (Editor's note: Since this review went to press, the book’s timeline has been updated to include the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from workplace discrimination.)

Well meaning but insubstantial. (Collective biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-6844-6216-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.


Young Raina is 9 when she throws up for the first time that she remembers, due to a stomach bug. Even a year later, when she is in fifth grade, she fears getting sick.

Raina begins having regular stomachaches that keep her home from school. She worries about sharing food with her friends and eating certain kinds of foods, afraid of getting sick or food poisoning. Raina’s mother enrolls her in therapy. At first Raina isn’t sure about seeing a therapist, but over time she develops healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her stress and anxiety. Her therapist helps her learn to ground herself and relax, and in turn she teaches her classmates for a school project. Amping up the green, wavy lines to evoke Raina’s nausea, Telgemeier brilliantly produces extremely accurate visual representations of stress and anxiety. Thought bubbles surround Raina in some panels, crowding her with anxious “what if”s, while in others her negative self-talk appears to be literally crushing her. Even as she copes with anxiety disorder and what is eventually diagnosed as mild irritable bowel syndrome, she experiences the typical stresses of school life, going from cheer to panic in the blink of an eye. Raina is white, and her classmates are diverse; one best friend is Korean American.

With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-85251-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A painful and painfully recognizable tale of one girl’s struggle to make and keep “one good friend.” (author’s note)...


A truth-telling graphic memoir whose theme song could be Johnny Lee’s old country song “Lookin’ for Love in all the Wrong Places.”

Shannon, depicted in Pham’s clear, appealing panels as a redheaded white girl, starts kindergarten in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1979, and her story ends just before sixth grade. Desperately longing to be in “the group” at school, Shannon suffers persistent bullying, particularly from a mean girl, Jenny, which leads to chronic stomachaches, missing school, and doctor visits. Contemporary readers will recognize behaviors indicative of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but the doctor calls it anxiety and tells Shannon to stop worrying. Instead of being a place of solace, home adds to Shannon’s stress. The middle child of five, she suffers abuse from her oldest sibling, Wendy, whom Pham often portrays as a fierce, gigantic bear and whom readers see their mother worrying about from the beginning. The protagonist’s faith (presented as generically Christian) surfaces overtly a few times but mostly seems to provide a moral compass for Shannon as she negotiates these complicated relationships. This episodic story sometimes sticks too close to the truth for comfort, but readers will appreciate Shannon’s fantastic imagination that lightens her tough journey toward courage and self-acceptance.

A painful and painfully recognizable tale of one girl’s struggle to make and keep “one good friend.” (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-416-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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