Perhaps not for everyone but an honest exploration of a personal subject.

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MEND

A STORY OF DIVORCE

Fourteen-year-old Recca details her experience of her parents’ divorce through a graphic medium.

Growing up middle class in Las Vegas, brown-haired Sophia had what looked like the perfect family. However, when she was 8, after loud and violent fights, her parents made an announcement of their imminent divorce. Sophia was heartbroken and candidly portrays her feelings both through her own words and illustrations by Kim and Leach (Click, 2018, etc.). Earlier praise from a teacher for her caring nature guides Sophia to patch her parents’ fractured relationship, and the outcome is exceptional: Her mother and father seemingly put their issues behind them and focus on successful co-parenting. Although the portrayal is authentically voiced, Sophia’s circumstance is unusual; not all young readers will be able to bridge the dissolution of their parents’ relationship so easily, potentially giving them false hope. The full-color art has moments of idiosyncrasy, with Sophia drawn to look disturbingly mature in close-up shots. Other panels show Sophia literally bisected by a line; even younger readers will be able to glean meaning from this. There is a quiet but continuous undercurrent of Christian faith throughout. Like Sophia’s family, nearly all persons depicted are white; the few scenes with any persons of color exist only in what appears to be a social services office.

Perhaps not for everyone but an honest exploration of a personal subject. (Graphic memoir. 7-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947378-00-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Zuiker Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 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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