Kids will enjoy meeting Mallko, but Gusti’s funny, affectionate portraits of father and son may resonate most with parents...

In a mixed-media account that won the BolognaRagazzi Award for Disability, Argentine illustrator Gusti (Half of an Elephant, 2006) relates how he learned to embrace his son’s Down syndrome.

When his second son, Mallko, was born with Down syndrome, Gusti confesses, “I DID NOT ACCEPT HIM.” Fortunately, he gradually realizes that Mallko is “great. The greatest.” And Mallko brims with orneriness—and ordinariness—as he pesters his parents, draws with his dad, and rocks out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In simple text and a collage of sketches, comics, photos, handwritten notes, and even a picture book within the book, Gusti candidly depicts the ups and downs of life with Mallko. Parents and siblings of disabled children will find a spectrum of emotions reflected in Gusti, and Gusti’s wife and older son show how family members can support one another. Despite the simple language, Gusti’s message of acceptance seems particularly, earnestly, addressed to parents. “Kids with Down syndrome are an endangered species,” his penultimate line declares, the words fraught with both his son’s preciousness and Down syndrome’s correlation with abortion. Closing images of two adults with Down syndrome kissing act as a powerful affirmation. Adults should be prepared for some children to ask, “Why?” Occasionally, the original Spanish text appears alongside its English translation, and Mallko’s marker drawings appear throughout. Gusti and his family present as white.

Kids will enjoy meeting Mallko, but Gusti’s funny, affectionate portraits of father and son may resonate most with parents and parents-to-be. (Graphic memoir. 9 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59270-259-6

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018


Telgemeier has created an utterly charming graphic memoir of tooth trauma, first crushes and fickle friends, sweetly reminiscent of Judy Blume’s work. One night, Raina trips and falls after a Girl Scout meeting, knocking out her two front teeth. This leads to years of painful surgeries, braces, agonizing root canals and other oral atrocities. Her friends offer little solace through this trying ordeal, spending more of their time teasing than comforting her. After years of these girls’ constant belittling, Raina branches out and finds her own voice and a new group of friends. Young girls will relate to her story, and her friend-angst is palpable. Readers should not overlook this seemingly simply drawn work; the strong writing and emotionally expressive characters add an unexpected layer of depth. As an afterword, the author includes a photo of her smiling, showing off the results of all of the years of pain she endured. Irresistible, funny and touching—a must read for all teenage girls, whether en-braced or not. (Graphic memoir. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-13205-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bantam Discovery

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010


Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one.

The charismatic creator of the Eisner-nominated Amelia Rules! series recounts his beginnings as a cartoonist.

From the very first panel, Gownley’s graphic memoir is refreshingly different. He’s not the archetypal nerd, and he doesn’t retreat to draw due to feelings of loneliness or isolation. Gownley seems to be a smart kid and a talented athlete, and he has a loyal group of friends and a girlfriend. After he falls ill, first with chicken pox and then pneumonia, he falls behind in school and loses his head-of-the-class standing—a condition he is determined to reverse. A long-standing love of comics leads him to write his own, though his first attempt is shot down by his best friend, who suggests he should instead write a comic about their group. He does, and it’s an instant sensation. Gownley’s story is wonderful; his small-town life is so vividly evinced, it’s difficult to not get lost in it. While readers will certainly pick up on the nostalgia, it should be refreshing—if not completely alien—for younger readers to see teens interacting without texting, instead using phones with cords. Eagle-eyed readers will also be able to see the beginnings of his well-loved books about Amelia. He includes an author’s note that shouldn’t be overlooked—just be sure to keep the tissues handy.

Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one. (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-45346-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

Close Quickview