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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

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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

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A sincere, genuine, and uplifting book that affirms the importance of being true to yourself.

Middle school drama hits hard in this coming-of-age graphic memoir.

Natural competitor Misty has faced off against the boys for years, always coming out on top, but now they’re moving on without her into the land of full-contact football. Never one to back away from a challenge, Misty resolves to join the team and convinces her best friend, Bree, to join her. While Misty pours herself into practicing, obviously uninterested Bree—who was motivated more by getting to be around boys than doing sports—drifts toward popular queen bee Ava, creating an uneasy dynamic. Feeling estranged from Bree, Misty, who typically doesn’t think much about her appearance, tries to navigate seventh grade—even experimenting with a more traditionally feminine gender expression—while also mastering her newfound talent for tackling and facing hostility from some boys on the team. Readers with uncommon interests will relate to the theme of being the odd one out. Social exclusion and cutting remarks can be traumatic, so it’s therapeutic to see Misty begin to embrace her differences instead of trying to fit in with frenemies who don’t value her. The illustrations are alive with color and rich emotional details, pairing perfectly with the heartfelt storytelling. The husband-and-wife duo’s combined efforts will appeal to fans of Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Hale. Main characters present as White; some background characters read as Black.

A sincere, genuine, and uplifting book that affirms the importance of being true to yourself. (Graphic memoir. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-306469-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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