An emotional, contemplative tale of risking and growing.

WHILE I WAS AWAY

In 1984, a 12-year-old Kansas girl spends five months in Japan with the intimidating grandmother she barely knows.

At school, Waka is used to being regarded as a brain—as well as the short kid. At home, her Japanese immigrant parents worry that in striving so hard to be American, she is losing touch with her heritage. The solution? Sending her to Japan to live with Obaasama and attend a local public school despite her strenuous protests. In her new Japanese school, Waka’s language struggles and cultural faux pas make her stand out—and not in a good way. On the other hand, she is considered tall and a jock. Breaking into established social circles presents another puzzle. But everything pales in comparison to learning to get along with her taciturn grandmother, whose traumatic history and emotional complexity come to light as their relationship deepens. Waka finds inner strength she didn’t know she had, cultivates greater self-awareness, and comes to truly love many aspects of Japan. The author shares her story in a conversational and accessible tone. Many facets of life in the 1980s will be as surprising as the U.S.–Japan cultural differences that readers unfamiliar with Japan discover alongside young Waka. International travel aside, the journey of coming to see oneself and others through more mature eyes is a universally familiar element of the middle school years, adding additional appeal.

An emotional, contemplative tale of risking and growing. (author’s note) (Memoir. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-301711-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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

FRIENDS FOREVER

From the Friends series , Vol. 3

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 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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A powerful resource for young people itching for change.

WOLFPACK (YOUNG READERS EDITION)

HOW YOUNG PEOPLE WILL FIND THEIR VOICE, UNITE THEIR PACK, AND CHANGE THE WORLD

Soccer star and activist Wambach adapts Wolfpack (2019), her New York Times bestseller for adults, for a middle-grade audience.

YOU. ARE. THE. WOLVES.” That rallying cry, each word proudly occupying its own line on the page, neatly sums up the fierce determination Wambach demands of her audience. The original Wolfpack was an adaptation of the viral 2018 commencement speech she gave at Barnard College; in her own words, it was “a directive to unleash [the graduates’] individuality, unite the collective, and change the world.” This new adaption takes the themes of the original and recasts them in kid-friendly terms, the call to action feeling more relevant now than ever. With the exception of the introduction and closing remarks, each short chapter presents a new leadership philosophy, dishing out such timeless advice as “Be grateful and ambitious”; “Make failure your fuel”; “Champion each other”; and “Find your pack.” Chapters utilize “rules” as a framing device. The first page of each presents a generalized “old” and “new” rule pertaining to that chapter’s guiding principle, and each chapter closes with a “Call to the Wolfpack” that sums up those principles in more specific terms. Some parts of the book come across as somewhat quixotic or buzzword-heavy, but Wambach deftly mitigates much of the preachiness with a bluff, congenial tone and refreshing dashes of self-deprecating humor. Personal anecdotes help ground each of the philosophies in applicability, and myriad heavy issues are respectfully, yet simply broached.

A powerful resource for young people itching for change. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76686-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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