Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie

by Lisa Napoli
First sentence: “On August 18, 2019, Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs Roberts, age seventy-five, did what she’d done for thousands of Sundays.”
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Content: There is some swearing, including a couple of f-bombs. It’s in the biography section of the bookstore.

Nominally, this is a history of how NPR became what it is today. Napoli focuses on the four women who were hired near the beginning of NPR’s tenure. Although she briefly illustrates the four women’s pasts and how they landed at NPR, the majority of the book is about the influence they had on shaping the way NPR became the influential reporting pwoerhosue that it is today.

I picked this up because I really liked Dinners with Ruth, and I was curious to know more about how NPR became NPR. It’s billed as the story of the women, but it’s really the story of NPR as a whole. There were ups and downs that I didn’t know about as NPR struggled to become relevant in the 1970s and 1980s, including a bankruptcy scare. and although the four women played a big role in it, they were not the only ones.

It was a good book, even if it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I liked learning the history of NPR, and learning what it took to get a national radio station off the ground. I was impressed, again, by the challenges women faced in the workplace in the 1970s, and the gumption that these four women had to become successful at a time when the odds were stacked against them. It’s not going to be my favorite book ever, but it was interesting and I enjoyed it.

YA Graphic Novel Round-up 3

M is for Monster
by Talia Dutton
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Content: It’s raising a body from the dead, and dealing with issues of identity. it’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

M is Maura, Dr. Frances Ai’s sister, brought back to life. On the one hand, M wants to continue living, so she pretends to be Maura. (Dr. Francis is so desperate to get her sister back that if this didn’t work, she would take M apart and try again. For obvious reasons, M doesn’t want that.) On the other hand, M is bad at being Maura; she doesn’t care about science, hates Maura’s clothes, and doesn’t laugh at Francis’s jokes. She wants to explore fashion and sewing, and just be herself.

This is a really clever twist on Frankenstein, looking at the monster’s point of view, and an exploration of identity and what it means to be a “person”. It’s sweet and charming and absolutely delightful.

Piece by Piece
by Priya Huq
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Content: There is a hate crime to start the book, and Islamaphobia, as well as some abusive statements by an adult.

Nisrin is attacked on the way home from school – she was wearing a head covering, part of a Bangladeshi traditional costume. She is told that she needs to go back “where she came from”, and that “her kind” are not welcome. She is injured in the attack. The summer passes, and she can’t leave the house. But when school starts again in the fall, Nisrin decides to wear hijab to school, which doesn’t sit well with her mother and grandparents. They don’t understand her decision, and she has some challenges dealing with it. She does, however, find her tribe, and makes up with her best friend, who she had a falling out with after the attack.

It’s a good story, one that I think needs to be told. I appreciated that Nisrin was Bangladeshi, because isn’t a usual nationality for stories about Islam. However, while I felt it was important, I felt like it was missing something I’m not entirely sure what, but it wasn’t quite,, something. Still, I’m glad that it’s out there.

Himawari House
by Harmony Becker
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Content: There is some smoking and drinking, but the kids are all of age. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Nao was born in Japan but basically is raised in America. She learned to fit in, but she has often wondered what it would be like to find her roots, and go back. So, she takes a year between graduating high school and going to college, and heads to Japan to find out. She moves in to Himawari House and meets Tina – a young woman from Singapore – and Hyejung – a young woman from Korea – who are both learning to find their way in Japan. There are two boys in the house as well, though they are Japanese. The three girls become close friends, ashring in their successes and sadnesses, ads they figoure out who they are and what they want for their future.

Oh, this one was delightful. I loved that Becker captured the challenges and joys of learning to live in a foreign county, and the challenges of being biracial and trying to a way to fit in. Becker gave us the inner lives of all the characters, which was delightful. I also liked that she pulls illustrating styles from manga – there were many frames that strongly reminded me of the manga I’ve read. It was a smart story, compelling, and beautifully drawn. I loved it.

EMG Graphic Novel Round-up 3

Little Monarchs
by Jonathan Case
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Content: There are some intense moments, fights, and possibly leaving people for dead. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

In the near future, a sun sickness has killed off all mammals. What humans are left, have gone underground. But 10-year-old Elvie and her caretaker, Flora get live aboveground because of some medicine that Flora discovered: it comes from the scales off monarch butterfly wings. So they follow the migratory paths of monarchs to harvest and make medicine while Flora tries to make a permanent vaccination. That makes it sound very tame, but this has near death experiences, some pretty awful bad guys, and a lot of tension. There are some light-hearted moments, an it’s all about found family, and it’s full of STEM facts. I do have a slight issue with the author being white and the main character being Black, but that’s a minor one. Overall, it’s a remarkable book.

The Real Riley Mayes
by Rachel Elliott
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Content: It deals with crushes, and there is some bullying and homophobia. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Riley just wants to be herself: Short hair, androgenous clothes, drawing as much as possilbe. But, her friend that “got” her moved away, and she’s having a hard time making new friends. One of the kids in class teases her for being a gay, calling her names and excluding her from all-girl events. The thing is, Riley’s not even sure she’s gay. She does make a couple of friends, but she’s not sure if they’ll stick especially after she makes smome mistakes. Maybe she’ll figure out this whole being a 5th grader thing out.

This one was super cute! I loved Riley, and her struggles felt like a real 5th grader’s struggles. Making and keeping friends, figuring out who you are, figuring out how to be a friend. it’s all there. I liked the art, and there wa seven some humor in it as well. Really really good.

Apple Crush
by Lucy Knisley
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Content: It deals with crushes. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Jen is spending the week on her mother’s farm, after he divorce from Jen’s father. She’ getting used to living in the country, and going to school. But her new stepsiste, who visits on weekends, has other plans. One of them is super into boys, and all Jen wants to do is hang out, work on the pumplki patch next door, and draw. It’s a touch line to figure out how to walk.

This is a nice look at the different stages kids are at in middle school. Some are into relationships and “liking” other kids, others not so much. I appreciated the matter of fact way Knisley approaches the suject, and the way she woe a Halloween story in there as well. It’s a cute story and a cute book.

Bunnicula
by James Howe, Andrew Dokin, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin
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Content: There is humorous “horror”, and sometimes scary moments. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Bunnicula is one of those books I’ve heard a lot about, but have never read. Things I didn’t know: it’s written suppsoedly, by the dog, who is telling the story of the vampire bunny. I didn’t know that the bunny only sucks the juices out of vegetables, turning them white (i had thought maybe it was a real vampre bunny). I didn’t know that it was the cat who goes pretty crazy tyring to prove that the bunny is a vampire. I thought it was scarier than it actually was.

Still, it wa a fun graphic novel and not a bad way to be introduced to this story

Didn’t finish: Sorceline.

Monthly Round-Up: October 2022

The sad thing is that I didn’t even think about this until this evening after work, and I realized, fully, that it was November 1st. I guess Halloween will do that to you…

Lots of Cybils books on this list.

My favorite:

Bloodmarked. It’s such a good series.

And the rest:

Middle Grade Graphic Novels:

The Tryout
The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza
Tidesong
Ride On
Twin Cities
Red Scare

Investigators: Braver and Boulder
Manu

Wait Till Helen Comes
Scout is Not a Band Kid

YA Graphic Novels:

Witch Hat Atelier
Huda F Are You?
Fly By Night
Pixels of You
Girl on Fire

Squire
Twelfth Grade Night
Demon in the Wood

Non-Fiction:

Nerd (audiobook)

Adult Fiction:

Thank You for Listening (audiobook)

What was your Octoer favorite?

YA Graphic Novel Roundup 2

Squire
by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas
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Content: There is violence, including suggestions of genocide. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Aiza dreams of becoming a squire for the knights of the kingdom, even though she is an Ornu, a people that has been conquered and oppressed by the kingdom. It’s her heart’s desire, though, and eventually, her parents let her go. What she finds when she gets there, however, is not what she was expecting. She hides her heritage – Ornu get tattoos on their arms and she hides that — and makes some friends. She fails her first exam, and starts trainging with the caretaker in the camp. But when she and her friends are out on a routine patrol, and they are attacked by Ornu villagers, Aiza needs to decie between her dreams and her people.

Oh, I loved this one so much. I loved that the authors are Jordanian- and Palestinian-American, and while this book isn’t explicitly Muslim, they are pulling on the cultures of the area. I loved that you have a girl who is learning and using her spunk to improve and gain respect from other people. I loved that they deal with prejudice and colonialism and war. It was an engaging story, with great art, and absolutely a joy to read. Don’t pass this one up.

Twelfth Grade Night
by Molly Horton Booth, Stephanie Kate Strohm, and Jamie Green
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Content: It’s super lovey-dovey, but not really anything else. it’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Vi same to Arden High for a fresh start – she wasn’t really jiving any more with the uniform of the private school anymore, and she needed a chance to be more expressive. Her twin brother, Sebastian, has decided to stay in the private school – which means he’s away at bearing school. Vi finds it all a bit disconcerting to be in school without her twin, but she eventally makes friends. There’s a dance coming up – and (especially if you’re familiar with Twelfth Night) shenanigans enuse.

I am a sucker for a good Shakespeare retelling, and this is a really good Shakespeare retelling. I liked that Vi is leaning toward non-bineary (though she still uses she/her pronouns) and defies the stereotypes of nonbinary characters. But there is a definite LGBTQIA+ element to this, which is a nice touch. I loved the way they set the play in a high school, and it follos the play pretty much beat for beat. I liked the addition of the faeries from A Midummer Night’s dream to the high school, and how it’s just a delight to read. I loved the art, and thought it was all a lot of fun.

Grishaverse: Demon in the Wood
by Leigh Bardugo and Dani Pendergast
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Content There is violence, including suggestions of genocide, and some murder. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

While this isn’t the story of how the Darkling became the Darkling, it is a story about the Darkling before he truly came to power, and gives some of the reasons behind what he did that led him down the path to becoming the Darkling. He and his mother are wondering Grisha, and they find a village to shelter them. Aleksander is supposed to keep his powers quiet, especially the fact that he is an amplifier. But things go awry, and he ends up murdering a couple of the villagers.

It’s not a deep story, though it’s an interesting exploration of the “bad guy” as the main character. It’s slight, but the art is beautiful, and it serves as both a good interoduction ot the Grishaverse and a nice addition for someone who has been immersed in the world. Not bad at all.

EMG Graphic Novels Round-Up 2

Investigators: Braver and Boulder
By John Patrick Green
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Content: It is very silly and includes a lot of punny jokes. It’s in the Beginning Chapter Book (grades 1-2) section of the bookstore, but I’m sure older kids love these too.

I’ve seen these in the bookstore, and they have been flying off the shelves, almost as fast as Dog Man (which I think is the best comparison). I assume there was something to these, a reason why the kids really liked them, so I was more than hapy to read one. It’s the fifth in the series, but you don’t really have to read them all to get the gist of the story. It’s full of silly puns (like a lie-berry which is a website that has facts about anything but also throws some lies in there to keep you on your toes) or acronyms (like S.U.I.T.S. – Special Uncdercver Investigation Teams). It’s not terribly high stakes, but it’s not low ones either, and the result is a slight mystery and a book about foriving and remembering those who have gone on. Too silly for my taste, but it wasn’t bad.

Manu
By Kelly Fernández
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Content: There are demons and magic, which will disturb some people (here, at least). It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novels section of the bookstore.

Manu lives at a magical boarding school for girls. She has a best friend, Josefina, but she also gets in trouble a lot. One day, a prank of hers goes wrong and Josefina gets mad and wishes that Manu’s magic – which is exceptionally strong – would just go away. It does, and then when Manu does another (forbidden) spell to get it back, everything goes sideways (like opening up the gates of hell and letting demons free, sideways). And of course, since Manu made the mess, she needs to clean it up!

I liked the combination of Church (the school is run by nuns) and magic here. I liked the friendship between the girls, and how Manu’s independence and challenges to authority aren’t necessarily seen as bad things. She’s a free spirit, and even though she knows magic is supposed to help people, she also wants to use it for fun. And the final message – that loving someone for who they are instead of for who they should be – is a good one.

Qute enjoyable.

Wait Till Helen Comes
by Mary Downing Hahn, adapted by Scott Peterson, Meredith Laxton, and Russ Badgett
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Content: It’s a ghost story and there are some pretty scary parts. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Molly and Michael’s mother has gotten remarried, and their stepfather’s daughter, Heather, has done nothing but cause trouble. She constantly acts up, and then blames it on Molly and Michael when she is confronted. Things only get worse when they move out to the country and into a restored church with a graveyard nearby. Heather starts talking about her “friend”, Helen, and acting out even more. Molly is convinced that Heather is possessed by a ghost, one that has malicious intent toward Heather, but the problem is that her brother and parents don’t believe her, and Heather keeps lying anytime Molly tries to bring it up. As tensions mount, Molly does everything she can to keep Heather safe, but everything – including the ghost – is working against her.

Honestly? Let the little brat Heather die.

Okay, that was harsh. Still, I could NOT stand her. I wanted to shake her and smack her parents for taking her side over the older kids. What kind of sexism is it that the parents side with the kid of the husband (oh, she has a tragic backstory, blah blah) and not the ones of the wife? The whole family needs therapy, and moving to the country and letting your kids run amok in the forest is NOT the right way to do things. I just couldn’t get out of my parent brain and ended up being super judgy about this one. The art is fine, but the story needs help. I do know kids love her, and she’s a good teller of age-appropriate scary tales. But seriously. let the brat get what’s coming to her.

Ugh.

Scout is Not a Band Kid
By Jade Armstrong
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Content: There is some bullying by so-called friends. it’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Scout is a big fan of author Pristing Wong, and would do anything to meet her at the upcoming fan convention. The problem is th it’s in another city, and her dad doesn’t have the time or money to take her. So, when she learns that the band festival is in this city at the festival (don’t ask why; I don’t know), she decides to join band, playing troubmbone. (She’s in 8th grade!). She doesn’t take it seriously, skipping class and practice (not the same thing?) to sluff off with her friends (who are super judgy of both Socut’s fandom and her involvment in band). Eventually, the other trombonist gets upset and is forced by the teacher to start tutoring Scout. They develop a bit of a friendship, and Scout managed to improve her playing. They bond over their shared fangirlyness over Pristine Wong. But will things change when they get to the festival, and the band is scheduled to play at the same time as the meet and greet?

Aside from the obvious problems I had with the band part (no one starts band in 8th grade. You can leave it, but you can’t start then!), it wasn’t a bad story. I really had no patience for Scout’s choice of friends, but she had a growth arc, and that made it tolerable. It wasn’t anything special, but it wasn’t terrible either.

YA Graphic Novel Roundup 1

Fly by Night
by Tara O’Connor
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Content there is some swearing, and acts of violence (offscreen) against women. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Dee has come home because her twin sister – whom she hasn’t seen in years since their parents split – has one missing. Dee holds out hope that her sister is still alive, but the adults are hopeless. A Cold trail is a cold trail. Additionally, a local corporation wants to chopd won the New Jersey Pinelines and sent an oil ipile line trhough. Are the two event s connected? And wat is that weir creature that Dee has seen in teh woods?

I liked the environmental side of this story, the way the kids stood up against corporate greed, and their blatant disregard for the land. I did feel that the mystery side of the story got resolved too soon and very quickly (although it made sense, in the end). I liked the supernatural elements and the way O’Connor wove them into the story. Really very good.

Pixels of You
by Anath Hirsh and Yuko Ota, illustrated by J. R. Doyle
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Content: There is some swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

In the near future, AI is just a part of everyday life. They are workers, and drivers, and have begun “reproducing”, creating their own offspring. Indira, a human, has an internship at an art gallery, and the person she is supposed to work with is Fawn, a human-facing AI (an AI in a human-like body). They don’t want to work together at first, but the more they work together the stronger their friendship comes.

This one looks at the ideas of art and identity and friendship, all through the lens of the relationship these two young women have. i have to admit that I didn’t love the last panel; I didn’t think it was warranted with the relationship they had built throughout the book. But that said, I really like the world that these authors have created, and think it wa an interesting one to read.

Girl on Fire
by Alicia Keys and Andrew Weiner, illustrated by Brittaney Williams
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Content: there is swearing including f-bombs and violence. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

When Lolo Wright is with her brother when is he jumped by police for a crime he didn’t commit, she gets superpowers. She learns how to use those superpowers for good, and to help her friend Rut get away from local gang leader Skin’s influence.

File this one under “important but not good”. I wanted it to be good since it is dealing with important themes of racism and police violence. But, friends, it’s…not. It’s got too much in it, it’s not developed enough, and as much as I wanted to like it, I just didn’t. There are better examples of this story what don’t have a celebrity’s name on it. I’m going to go find one of them.

Audiobook: Nerd

Adventures in Fandom from this Univers to the Multiverse
by Maya Phillips
Read by the author
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Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There really isn’t anything that I can think of. It’s in the Film section of the bookstore.

In a series of essays, Phillis – a cultural critic for the New York Times – deconstructs her relationship with fandoms over the years. I liked her groupings – the first one is about the way New York shows up in comic books and movies, and a later one talks about Gods and the supernatural. I liked her insights, even when I disagreed (she took on Firefly, and it didn’t come out well, which I mean, sure, but leave my show alone!). It was a fascinating look at fandoms through the eyes of someone who has been a fan of things since she was young (though I didn’t get many of the anime references), and someone Black and female. It wasn’t your usual perspective on these sorts of things, and I appreciated that.

She was a good narrator of her own book, as well, and it made me feel like a friend was sitting there chatting about her thoughts on all sorts of geeky things.

Recommended.

Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novel Round Up 1

I thought about giving each one of these their own post, but then I realized that’s a lot of posts, and its just easier for me to lump them together as I finish them. I’ll try and do two a week – one for EMG and one for YA graphic novels. Enjoy!

Ride On
by Faith Erin Hicks
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Content: There is some bullying by older siblings It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Victoria has left her old riding stable, primarily because of a falling out with her best friend over competing (Victoria has lost her taste for it, and her friend wants to keep leveling up), so she moved to Edgewood stables. There she meets Norrie, Sam, and Hazel. At first, she shuns their friendship, thinking that she just wants to focus on the horses and riding, but over time she learns that friendship is important too.

I am not a horse girl. I never really was a horse girl, and I’m not sure I understand the appeal. But, I loved this graphic novel. I loved that it focused on friendship and connecting with the horses, rather than the competition aspect of it. I loved that there was a diverse cast, even though I’m pretty sure the sport is pretty white. I loved that there was a way for the kids t earn their riding lessons and that they, for the most part, weren’t kids of rich parents. It made it so much more accessible. And I loved that friendship was at the heart of it all. A good book for horse girls, sure, but one for anyone who likes friendship stories.

Twin Cities
by Jose Pimienta
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Content: There is a character that smokes weed and tires to get one of our main characters to sell it. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Teresa and Fernando are twins growing up in Mexicali, just south of the US border. They have done everything together, but in 7th grade, Teresa decides to go to school on the US side, and Fernando decides to stay in Mexico. Their closeness is tested as Teresa finds new friends, and Fernando feels left behind. He eventually makes a new friend who is strongly pro-Mexico, but also is a negative influence on Fernando. The challenge is for the twins to stay close as the stresses mount, and they grapple with their priorities and their relationship with each other.

I thought this one had some pretty heavy material for an EMG graphic novel. It almost felt YA in spots; no romance, but that Alex was doing andpushing weed on Fernando was a bit of a red flag for me or this age gropu. That said, I did like the issues that Pimeienta brought up. That of belonging, of friendship, of family, and of creaign your own place. I liekd the lookat Mexican culture from a Lantins writer and appreciated the nuanced way they looked at life on the border.

Red Scare
by Liam Francis Walsh
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Content: There is bullying by other children, some pretty intimidating FBI agents, and a pretty intense chase scene at the end. It’s in the Middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

It’s the 1950s and Peggy has polio. Which is not just painful, it makes her a target of bullying. Even her own brother doesn’t want to spend time with her: she’s too slow, she’s too much of a hassle. Then, one day, she finds a red glowy thing (as a man dies in a hotel room that she’s hiding in) which gives her something she never had: freedom. She can fly, she is fast. The problem? The FBI is after her because of the red glowy thing, and they don’t want it to fall into the hands of the “commies”.

This one, I thin tried to do too much. communist scare, aliens, FBI, Korean war vets, poilo… its like if it was in the 1950s, it ended up in this book. And while I get that history needs to be told, it just felt like a LOT. The adults in the book were all pretty horrific and while I liked the idea of a kid finding a magical red thingy, it also felt ablist – like Peggy wasnt a whole human being until she had a super power and was no longer on crutches. Just not at all my jam.

Did not finish: Paws: Gabby Gets It Together

Tidesong

by Wendy Xu
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Content: There’s some bullying/strict parenting on the part of parents, which might be triggering. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Sophie comes from a long magical line of women who have taken care of the island and communicated with the dragons in the sea. Sophie wants to make her mother and grandmother proud, and get into the magic academy. So she s shipped off to live with her Great Aunt and learn how to refine her madic for her aplication process. She’s not great at magic though and keeps messing up, which makes her Auntie Lan irritated. Sophie is attempting some magic, which goes wrong, and accidentally gets her magic entangled in with a young water dragon, Lir. He’s human, without memories of who he really is, and they can’t get their magic detangled.

I’m not making this sound anywhere near as good as it really is. It’s a little bit learning to make your own path in the world – Sophie learns that it’s not the wishes of her elders that she needs to follow but her own hear – and a little bit learning how to be a good friend – which means not remembering that other people’s wishes are valid as well your own. It’s a solid coming-of-age story, one where Sophie really learns to shine, but in her own, special way.

Xu is an excellent storyteller, and this is no exception.