Harrowing, moving, and filled with questions that cannot be answered but must be asked.

READ REVIEW

THE PROMISE

Rachel and Toby promised their parents that they would always stay together.

When the Nazis took away all the Jewish adults, their father managed to slip Toby a tin box with three gold coins hidden in shoe polish, urging them, “above all, stay together.” The sisters never saw their parents again. In Auschwitz they were assigned to a barracks with other young girls. Each day they had to build a wall of heavy stones only to take it down the following day, with the process repeating endlessly. Weakness led to disappearance and death. When Rachel became ill, she was taken away, and Toby knew she had to bring her back before she could be killed. She sneaked out, bribed a prisoner-guard with the precious gold coins, and spirited Rachel back to their own barracks. Toby was whipped for her deed, but the sisters were allowed to remain together and survived the war. The textured illustrations, a mixture of photos and drawings in muted hues, depict characters with very large, expressive faces on smaller, out-of-proportion bodies; they are as grotesque as the events they depict. The coauthors are cousins, daughters of Rachel and Toby, telling the story their mothers told them. Because Rachel and Toby were real people, young readers can empathize and sympathize, but the story does not try to help them understand the Holocaust: That is beyond human comprehension.

Harrowing, moving, and filled with questions that cannot be answered but must be asked. (epilogue) (Picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: April 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77260-058-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Second Story Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.

GUTS

Young Raina is 9 when she throws up for the first time that she remembers, due to a stomach bug. Even a year later, when she is in fifth grade, she fears getting sick.

Raina begins having regular stomachaches that keep her home from school. She worries about sharing food with her friends and eating certain kinds of foods, afraid of getting sick or food poisoning. Raina’s mother enrolls her in therapy. At first Raina isn’t sure about seeing a therapist, but over time she develops healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her stress and anxiety. Her therapist helps her learn to ground herself and relax, and in turn she teaches her classmates for a school project. Amping up the green, wavy lines to evoke Raina’s nausea, Telgemeier brilliantly produces extremely accurate visual representations of stress and anxiety. Thought bubbles surround Raina in some panels, crowding her with anxious “what if”s, while in others her negative self-talk appears to be literally crushing her. Even as she copes with anxiety disorder and what is eventually diagnosed as mild irritable bowel syndrome, she experiences the typical stresses of school life, going from cheer to panic in the blink of an eye. Raina is white, and her classmates are diverse; one best friend is Korean American.

With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-85251-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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This glimpse into middle school is insightful, introspective, and important

BEST FRIENDS

After traveling the rocky road of elementary school friendship in Real Friends (2017), Hale returns with another graphic memoir delving even deeper into preteen tribulations.

Now in sixth grade, young Shannon is a member of “the Group,” an assortment of popular and pretty girls that most notably includes best friend and group ringleader Jen and unrelenting mean-girl Jenny. However, infighting and treachery proliferate, leaving Shannon feeling frequently off balance as she strives to fit in and suppresses things she enjoys. She captures the dynamic brilliantly: “Sixth grade friendships were like a game… / only as soon as I’d figure out the rules… / they’d change again.” In addition to laying bare the back-stabbing and cattiness, Hale also examines her struggles with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive tendencies with openness and honesty. Shannon’s story is ultimately empowering, showing the satisfaction she feels following her own path. Hale and illustrator Pham (working with colorist Sycamore) capture the nuances of a typical middle school life, balancing Shannon’s public woes with her inner conflicts and adding a fun dose of 1980s nostalgia. Pham’s art is evocative in its simplicity; detailed facial expressions add emotional depth and accessibility for even the most reluctant readers. An author’s note talks earnestly and age-appropriately about anxiety. Consider this a must-read for fans of Raina Telegmeier or Victoria Jamieson. Hale and her friends are predominately white, although students of color are present throughout.

This glimpse into middle school is insightful, introspective, and important . (Graphic memoir. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31745-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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