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Informative, gripping, and humanizing.

A boy coming-of-age in war-torn Syria tells the story of his family’s struggle and survival as they are attacked from within and without.

As a child, Muhammad always felt safe in his father’s carpentry shop in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. That is, until Assad’s soldiers arrived. Protests against Syria’s authoritarian regime started in March 2011, when he was 8, and Muhammad grew up fast. By the time he was 13, he had lost his beloved father, a man who helped people and listened to their stories; his home; and his pet parrot, all to Syrian government aggression. Muhammad got an idea to help keep him going: He would interview other children and show the world what was happening. Maybe then, help would come. Aided by his photojournalist brother and English teacher sister, he braved dangers, embraced his fears, and reported over social media to a global audience. This brought him into contact with CNN reporter and co-author Neus. Mohammad’s story is one of a normal family—with playful teasing between siblings, people falling in love and marrying, new babies arriving, and recollections of favorite foods—set against a backdrop of scarcity and grief. Expressive full-color illustrations capture heartbreaking moments of loss as well as the warmth of extended family. Readers will find this a valuable window into the struggle, resistance, and humanity of the Syrian people during this ongoing crisis.

Informative, gripping, and humanizing. (photo credits, afterword, note by Neus, recipe, photos) (Graphic memoir. 10-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5690-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown Ink

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A rich and deeply felt slice of life.

Crafting fantasy worlds offers a budding middle school author relief and distraction from the real one in this graphic memoir debut.

Everyone in Tori’s life shows realistic mixes of vulnerability and self-knowledge while, equally realistically, seeming to be making it up as they go. At least, as she shuttles between angrily divorced parents—dad becoming steadily harder to reach, overstressed mom spectacularly incapable of reading her offspring—or drifts through one wearingly dull class after another, she has both vivacious bestie Taylor Lee and, promisingly, new classmate Nick as well as the (all-girl) heroic fantasy, complete with portals, crystal amulets, and evil enchantments, taking shape in her mind and on paper. The flow of school projects, sleepovers, heart-to-heart conversations with Taylor, and like incidents (including a scene involving Tori’s older brother, who is having a rough adolescence, that could be seen as domestic violence) turns to a tide of change as eighth grade winds down and brings unwelcome revelations about friends. At least the story remains as solace and, at the close, a sense that there are still chapters to come in both worlds. Working in a simple, expressive cartoon style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s, Sharp captures facial and body language with easy naturalism. Most people in the spacious, tidily arranged panels are White; Taylor appears East Asian, and there is diversity in background characters.

A rich and deeply felt slice of life. (afterword, design notes) (Graphic memoir. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53889-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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From the Friends series , Vol. 3

A likable journey that is sensitive to the triumphs and agonies of being a 13-year-old girl.

Shannon just wants to get through eighth grade in one piece—while feeling like her own worst enemy.

In this third entry in popular author for young people Hale’s graphic memoir series, the young, sensitive overachiever is crushed by expectations: to be cool but loyal to her tightknit and dramatic friend group, a top student but not a nerd, attractive to boys but true to her ideals. As events in Shannon’s life begin to overwhelm her, she works toward finding a way to love and understand herself, follow her passions for theater and writing, and ignore her cruel inner voice. Capturing the visceral embarrassments of middle school in 1987 Salt Lake City, Shannon’s emotions are vivid and often excruciating. In particular, the social norms of a church-oriented family are clearly addressed, and religion is shown as being both a comfort and a struggle for Shannon. While the text is sometimes in danger of spelling things out a little too neatly and obviously, the emotional honesty and sincerity drawn from Hale’s own life win out. Pham’s artwork is vibrant and appealing, with stylistic changes for Shannon’s imaginings and the leeching out of color and use of creative panel structures as her anxiety and depression worsen.

A likable journey that is sensitive to the triumphs and agonies of being a 13-year-old girl. (author's note, gallery) (Graphic memoir. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-31755-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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