Fascinating and heartfelt.

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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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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A rather unsatisfying graphic novel, sure to disappoint fans of Ellis’ book.

THE BREADWINNER

A GRAPHIC NOVEL

A graphic-novel adaptation of Ellis’ heartwarming story of Parvana, a young girl in Afghanistan who cuts her hair and dresses as a boy to earn money for her family when her father is imprisoned by the Taliban.

Adding a layer of remove from the original, this graphic novel is an adaptation of the upcoming film version, and it varies significantly from the original book. Notable deviations include the absence of helpful Mrs. Weera, who provides so much support to Parvana and her family in the original book, and two new details: a grudging former student who tattles on Parvana’s father and Parvana’s solo visit to rescue her imprisoned father. Much story is lost as a result of the numerous deviations, which also sadly promote Western views of Afghanistan, such as rampant corruption and violent men. Even as a stand-alone title for readers not familiar with the book, the storyline is bumpy, moving in fits and starts. At one point, Parvana’s mother decides to abandon Parvana and leave for the neighboring village but then changes her mind midway. Another disappointment is the book cover, which shows Parvana selling chai, something she does not do in either story (although her friend does). The only redeeming factor is the beautiful artwork, stills from the film, with its vivid use of colors to display context, such as use of red for war and black for the Taliban rule.

A rather unsatisfying graphic novel, sure to disappoint fans of Ellis’ book. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77306-118-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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