Fascinating and heartfelt.

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A YEAR WITHOUT MOM

Tolstikova offers an illustrated memoir of her 13th year: it's the year the Soviet Union falls, but more importantly, it's the year she stays in Moscow with her grandparents while her mother studies abroad.

Cataclysmic though the end of Soviet rule is, it occupies just a few pages of this heavily illustrated book: "one morning we wake up and Gorbachev...is taken prisoner by some bad people," Dasha writes, then "good guy Yeltsin...comes to the rescue." Of far greater moment than seismic political activity are the everyday concerns of a middle school girl. She develops a crush on charismatic Petya, hangs out with chums Masha and Natasha, attends after-school art classes, excels in math and physics, has a falling-out with her friends, and applies to a magnet school, all the while carving out a life without her mother. Soviet-era Russian realities are only hinted at, backgrounding Dasha's story but never overwhelming it. Scribbly, childlike pencil drawings are filled in with gray wash and accentuated with red and the occasional pop of blue. They are deceptively simple, but with great narrative sophistication, they capture both the specificity of Dasha's experience and the universality of her emotions. The text is likewise unadorned and effective: "I don't care about anything anymore. It's cold and dark out. I am not cool. Petya will never like me. School is boring. Everything sucks."

Fascinating and heartfelt. (Graphic memoir. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55498-692-7

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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