An admirable feat that entertains even as it instructs

BOY BITES BUG

Eating a stinkbug has unforeseen consequences for Will.

Will Nolan, who is white, is shocked when his friend Darryl (also white) calls the new boy in their Minnesota school, Hispanic Eloy, a cholo. The word is not necessarily a slur, but Darryl clearly intends it as such, prompting Will to eat a stinkbug as a very middle school way of proving that he’s not “a jerk,” even if his friend is. Unsurprisingly, Will throws up. He arrives at school the next day mortified, only to find, in a turn of events that makes perfect middle school sense, that the stunt has granted him fame: He’s now Bug Boy. But Will’s problems are far from over: Tensions with Darryl continue to rise, and as he gets to know Eloy, problematic elements in Will’s own thinking and behavior begin to reveal themselves. When Will unintentionally betrays Eloy’s trust, he must decide not only how to redeem himself, but what sort of person he wants to be—and whether someone like Darryl, his lifelong friend with no apparent desire to denounce his bigotry, is someone Will wants in his life. Petruck successfully weaves such important themes as bias, solidarity, and coming to recognize one’s own privilege and prejudice together, delivering them in a plot that is so very middle school (bugs! sports!) that it will hopefully appeal to a broad audience who might not otherwise choose to read about these crucial topics.

An admirable feat that entertains even as it instructs . (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2141-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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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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