Audiobook: Now Is Not the Time to Panic

by Kevin Wilson
Read by Ginnifer Goodwin
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Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some talk of violence and sex, and some swearing (maybe a couple of f-bombs? I can’t remember). It’s in the fiction section of the bookstore.

It’s the summer of 1996 in Coalfield, Tennessee, and there isn’t a whole lot to do, especially if you were 16. Frankie is resigned to another boring summer until she meets Zeke. And the two of them create a poster – Frankie comes up with the words and Zeke the art – that, once they start putting it up all over town, creates a panic. Two people end up dying, and there is talk of the poster coming from a Satanic cult. Frankie and Zeke promise to never tell, but 21 years later, Frankie is contacted by a reporter who has discovered that she is behind the Coalfield Craze of 1996. Now, it seems, the story needs to be told.

On the one hand, the book is an interesting musing on the purpose and reach of art: did the poster mean what everyone thought it meant? What responsibility do Frankie and Zeke have for others’ reactions to their art? There was a bit of coming-of-age, as Frankie had a first love, and her dreams were crushed, and realized that maybe everything isn’t perfect. But – I had issues with her as a 16-year-old. She felt… young. Obsessive. I hated the use of “weird” – she was “weird”, she felt “weird”, and she had a “weird” brain. It was a lot. I liked the narrator; she was sweet and read the book well, but in the end, I wasn’t sure I really got what Wilson was getting at.

EMG Graphic Novel Roundup 8

Last one!

Smaller Sister
by Maggie Edkins Willis
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Content: There is talk of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. As well as a lot of talk about crushes. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Born close together, Livy and Lucy were super close as kids. They played together, building imaginary worlds. It seemed to Lucy that they would always be inseparable. But then, their parents moved them to a different school and Livy became… different. She hung out with the popular girls, started talking a lot about boys, stopped eating, and (worst of all) stopped talking to Lucy. As things got worse, and Livy developed an eating disorder, Lucy was left to unravel things all by herself.

This one was just so good. I loved all the aspects of sisterhood that Willis touched upon, how the girls were close, and then grew apart as the oldest one got older. (They did make up in the end, and find their way back to friendship.) I also liked the focus on eating disorders from the outside. There is one scene, later when Lucy is in 6th grade when she decides to control her food, and Livy is able to talk to her and tell her from experience what was going on. It was an incredibly touching scene. A very good book.

Wingbearer
by Marjorie Liu and Teny Issakhanian
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Content: There are some intense/scary moments. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Zuli has been raised her whole life in the Great Tree, the place where the spirits of birds come to rest before being reborn. She is content there, communing with the birds, until the day that the spirits stop coming. Concerned, the birds send one of Zuli’s bird friends out to find out the cause, but when he doesn’t come back, Zuly and her companion Frowly set out into the wide world to find the problem. Once there, they find a world of danger, hardship, and a witch queen who wants to take over. On their journey, though, they find friendship and companionship, and most of all, Zuli finds out who she really is.

This is a really excellent hero’s journey tale. It has shades of Warrior Cats (there were at least a few pages that gave off strong Warriors vibes), but it’s still a solid tale. I love the world and the mythology that Liu has created and Issakhanian’s art is absolutely gorgeous. Definitely an excellent start to what could be a great series.

Play Like a Girl
by Misty Wilson and David Wilson
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Content: There is a bit of bullying and some friendship issues. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

In this graphic memoir, Wilson recounts her seventh-grade year when she was on the football team. She was always an active girl, in sports, and not really terribly feminine. So when the boys tell her she “can’t” play football, she sets out to prove them wrong. On the way, she loses a best friend – Bree, who doesn’t want to be all sweaty with the boys, but instead befriends the mean girl in the school, shunning Misty – and gains some new ones, as well as the respect of some of the boys (but not all) on the team. She learns new skills and works hard to play the best and hardest she can.

I’m always down for a girl in a non-traditional sports book, and this is a good one. I loved Misty’s determination to do anything she puts her mind to, even in the face of opposition from her teammates. I’m glad she had the support of some of the adults in her life, and I appreciated that Wilson didn’t shy away from the costs Misty paid for being on the football team. The art is really good as well. An excellent graphic novel all around.

EMG Graphic Novel Round Up 7

The Golden Hour
by Nikki Smith
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Content: There is some depiction of a school shooting, talk of PTSD, and depictions of anxiety attacks. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Manuel is just getting back to school after witnessing his teacher get shot in a shooting (it was during the break; he happened to be at school helping his teacher when it happened). He’s not going great, mostly because he keeps having panic attacks that get triggered by his environment or the words being said. But he makes friends with Sebastian and Cayasha, who are part of the ag club. He goes out to Sebastian’s family farm and learns about cows and chickens and farm work. He also discovers that taking photographs helps ground him in the present and reduces his panic attacks. But, when he goes off to camp with Sebastian, they come back strong. Will Manuel ever recover?

I really liked this one. Not only because it was set among the wheat fields of Kansas (and written by someone who grew up here!), but because Smith focused on the healing aspect of a shooting and not the terror part. I liked that she addressed PTSD in kids, and how to handle it (with a therapist, of course). A really solid graphic novel, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Enemies
by Svetlana Chmakova
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Others in the series: Awkward, Brave, Crush, Diary
Content: There is verbal fighting and sibling rivalry. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Felicity is an artist and a gamer and has tons of friends at middle school. What she is not: good at making deadlines. Her younger sister, Letty, who is accomplished in all the “right” ways, likes driving that point home. So, when Felicity sees a poster about a “pitch the future” contest, she figures it’s her chance to actually win for once. The problem is that when she shows up to the meeting, her ex-friend (now enemy?), Joseph Koh is there. How will she be able to come up with an idea and deal with the drama surrounding Joseph as well?

I’ve liked this series by Chmakova in the past (I’ve read three of the five now), and this one is no exception. They work well as standalones, but you can also read the entire series and get to know all the kids from the middle school. It’s a good depiction of middle school and the different challenges kids have. I liked that this one featured a black girl who liked art and gaming. I liked her parents, and I liked that the friendships weren’t always smooth. It’s a solid book in a solid series.

The Woman in the Woods
Edited by Kei McDonald, Kate Ashwin, & Alina Pete
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Content: A couple of the stories could be scary for sensitive readers. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

In this collection of short folktales based on Indigenous mythologies and stories, there are trickster rabbits, shapeshifters, Rougarou, and other stories from differing tribes throughout the Americas.

All the stories were well-drawn and interesting, though my favorite was the Rougarou myth. Rougarou was a monster that existed because someone looked at a Rougarou. If you look at it, you turn into one, and you’re that way for 100 days. if you can survive the 100 days, you turn back, but with no memory. In this story, a boy finds the Rougarou in the woods, and knowing what he’s seeing, blindfolds himself. And then he proceeds to befriend the monster. It’s really sweet. It’s a good collection of stories and one I’m glad to have read.

Miss Quinces
by Kat Fajardo
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Content: There is a death in the family, which might be difficult for some readers. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Sue just wants to go to sleepaway camp with her friends this summer, but her mami won’t let her go anywhere without her sisters, and besides, it’s their family trip to Honduras. Once in Honduras – away from cell phones and the internet! – Sue discovers that her mami has decided that Sue needs a quinceañera. Sue puts up a fight, initially, until her abuela (who isn’t doing too well), helps her find ways to make it more, well, Sue-like.

This is a super charming story about finding one’s place. Fajardo got across how hard it is to be a child of immigrants; not American enough to quite fit in (her mami has super strict rules, and doesn’t understand some of the things that Sue is into), but she doesn’t quite fit in with her family in Honduras, either (she doesn’t speak Spanish terribly well, and doesn’t want a quinceañera). I liked the story, overall, and there were some tender and touching moments. It’s an excellent graphic novel.

EMG Graphic Novel Roundup 5

A-Okay
by Jarad Greene
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Content: It’s a very “middle school” book, with crushes and friendship issues. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Jay is starting 8th grade with a face full of acne. This is a problem, mostly b because he is very self-conscious of his looks, and he thinks that his friends won’t like him anymore. He tried everything, but nothing seemed to work until he goes to a dermatologist and got on a heavy course of medication. The only problem is that it gives him mood swings and makes him sweat a bunch. On top of that, his best friend is more interested in hanging out with his new band members and Jay feels alone. He tries to make new friends, but it doesn’t go terribly well. And one more thing: he’s just not interested in a couple of his classmates the way they are in him.

I liked that this book dealt not only with the way boys feel about their appearance but also with the lack of feelings of attraction to people. I think there are more of these coming out now, normalizing not “liking people”, which I really appreciate. It’s not a really great graphic novel, but it is a good one, and one that I think kids will find valuable.

The Flamingo
by Guojing
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Content: there are very few words, so this works as a beginning chapter book, a picture book, or a graphic novel. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore, but it can definitely go younger.

The simple story of a city girl who goes to visit her grandmother in an unnamed (but presumably Asian) country. They spend days on the beach, and at night, her grandmother telles==s her the story of how she came to have a flamingo wing. It’s a simple story, one that is meant to delight as well as entertain, and when the girl returns home to the city, she draws the flamingo adventure for her grandmother.

There is not much to this book, but man, it was absolutely gorgeous. The art is so so evocative, you can’t help but fall in love with the characters from the girl and her grandmother to the flamingo. It’s absolutely stunning.

Living with Viola
by Rosena Fung
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Content: It talks pretty frankly about anxiety, and implies suicidal thoughts. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Olivia is a sixth grader, and her parents have transferred her to a new school, one with a better reputation so she can get a better education, which means starting completely over. That’s shared enough, but Livvy has pretty bad anxiety, which she personifies as “Viola” Sometimes Livvy can keep Viola at bay, but often Viola becomes so big that it’s overwhelming. Livvy does make new friends, but there are friendship struggles and struggles with her immigrant parents as well as with her extended family. Overarching it all is Viola, and her insistence that Livvy is just no good.

This is an excellent graphic novel for a couple of reasons. First, it’s great that it shows anxiety as something “other” – it was a little weird to get used to at first, but eventually, I did. I think it’s beneficial because kids will realize that anxiety is not “them” but something outside of their control. At least by themselves. At the end of the book, Livvy goes to see a therapist who gives her some tools to help keep Viola at bay better. The book doesn’t get into medication, but it does provide hope that anxiety isn’t something to be ashamed or afraid of. I liked that Livvy felt like a sixth grader, aught between friends who want to “grow up” and Livvy wanting to carry around her cute plush unicorn. That pretty well sums up sixth grade. I also enjoyed Fug’s exploration of Livvy’s Cantonese heritage, from the microaggressions of kids at school (why does your food smell, why don’t you speak Chinese) to Fung choosing to make every time a character speaks in Cantonese in red. It’s a clever, good, well-drawn graphic novel and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Button Pusher
by Tyler Page
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Content: There is some domestic violence, as Tyler’s dad has a temper. There are also allusions to swearing (but they are @#!!). It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

In this graphic memoir (sort of), Page relates his history of having ADHD during his childhood, and his path to his parents not only getting him diagnosed but also the ups and downs of medication. There is also family drama: Tyler’s dad has an explosive temper and is pretty misogynistic towards Tyler’s mom (and his boys, too, really). Page doesn’t sugarcoat the contention at home, and even recalls the times when his mother had had enough and wanted to leave (but chickened out). There is a lot of “it gets better” in this book as well, as Page is looking back on his childhood.

It’s well-drawn, and I liked that Page spent time trying to explain what ADHD is, and how the brain of a person with ADHD works (and doesn’t work). It may be a bit advanced for kids, but I found it fascinating. And I think the purpose of the book is to not only try and illustrate what a kid with ADHD looks like (though, as Page notes near the end, it’s different for everyone), and to create awareness. I don’t think the problems at home had much to do with the ADHD (except maybe Page’s dad was undiagnosed? I felt like he was bipolar, but that’s me being an armchair doctor), but Page was trying to be as honest as possible about his childhood. A really good graphic novel, though maybe not as much for kids as it is for their caregivers.

Didn’t finish: Besties.

EMG Graphic Novel Round-up 4

Invisible
by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, illustrated by Gabriela Epstein
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Content: There is some disrespect for elders. A lot of it is in Spanish (it’s translated) and I can see that throwing some non-Spanish speakers off it.

George (Puerto Rican, but doesn’t speak much Spanish) is short his community service hours at his middle school, and won’t finish up if he doesn’t get them. So the principal assigns him to the cafeteria first thing in the mornings with four other Latine students: Sara (who is in America from Mexico because her dad has a job here; speaks English but likes to pretend she doesn’t), Miguel (from the Dominican Republic, speaks a little English), Dayara (she’s Cuban, speaks a little English) and Nico (who is here on his own from Venezuela, speaks no English). Together, they discover a woman and her daughter living in their car just off the school grounds. They decide to help her, and because the lunch lady (who is a white, older woman) gets all upset at them for “stealing” the school’s food, they get in trouble. It doesn’t end badly, even though it could have.

There was so much to like about this one. I loved that the book was mostly in Spanish (it was translated, but I kept trying to see how much I could understand) which makes it quite representative I liked how the Latine students were not all one monolith; at one point they make fun of the principal and others for thinking they were all the same. They’re from different countries; of course, they’re not. I liked the conflict between the newer immigrants and George, who is really Anglicized. And i really liked the story of them helping the unhoused woman find a job and a home. It really was a delight to read.

Anne of West Philly
by Ivy Noelle Weir illustrated by Myisha Haynes
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Content: There’s really nothing It’int eh middle-grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

If you have read Anne of Gren Gables or seen the show (whichever version you like), then you know the plot of this one. Its only changes are that Anne is a Black foster kid in the system and lives in Philidelphia instead of Prince Edward Island. Otherwise, the book gets the story pretty much beat for beat.

This means it is a pretty cute adaptation of the classic story, updating it with cell phones and robot clubs and making Gilbert and Anne work together to get into an elite high school. Marilla and Matthew are in the story, as is Diana – and the part where Anne gets Diana accidentally drunk). It’s a sweet book because Anne of Green Gables is a sweet story, but it’s a good way to introduce new kids to the story.

Two-Headed Chicken
by Tm Angleberger
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Content: It’s full of silly humor. It’s a bit harder than the Dog Man books but is in the same vein. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

There’s not much of a plot to this one: the Two-headed chicken is being chased by an evil green moose, not just in this reality, but in all realities and dimensions. They have a hat that will switch them through the different multiverses and if they can stop the moose in one, they stop him in all of them.

What this book is: a lot of laughs. I thought it was going to be kind of annoying when I started, but I found myself giggling at the dumb jokes (let’s hear it for the fish with a mustache who is asking about everyone’s feelings, and more importantly: Duckter Whooo) It’s supremely silly in all the best ways. I can see myself handselling this one through the holidays to kids who have either outgrown or finished Dog Man and are looking for something else. It’s got everything: cultural references, multiverses (they’re in right now), and lots and lots of poking fun at everything.

And stick around for the world’s longest knock-knock joke. You won’t regret it.

Batman Robin and Howard
by Jeffrey Brown
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Content: Batman goes missing for a few days and leaves his kid alone, but there’s Alfred, so all’s good. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Damian Wayne is starting yet another new school. He’s had to leave his most recent school for Reasons. Additionally, his dad (yes, that Bruce Wayne) has sidelined Damian from being Robin. So Damian is forced to make friends at his new school. One of those people is Howard, the school’s smartest, nicest kid, who doesn’t like Damian because he thinks Damian is a show-off (well, Damian is). But then Batman goes missing, and Damian can’t go out and find him on his own. So, he tells Howard who he and his dad are, and enlists Howard’s help in finding Batman.

This is Batman LIte. It’s Batman for the kids who like Batman but can’t read the superhero comics yet. It’s for the people who like their Batman safe and nice, and kind of like the 1960s TV show. Don’t ask too many questions about this Batman or his origin or his kids (Batman had kids?). It’s enjoyable, though, and I liked how Damian and Howard became friends. But it’s not my kind of Batman.

Didn’t finish: Ghoster Heights, Speak Up

The Way I Say it

by Nancy Tandon
First sentence: “I can’t say my name.”
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Content: There is pretty explicit bullying, a child gets in a bike accident and ends up with a brain injury, and there is talk of crushes and liking girls. It’s in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Rory has problems saying his /r/ sounds, which is why he has a hard time saying his name. He’s in 6th grade, which he feels is a bit too old to be in speech therapy with the school pathologist, but since he can’t say the r-sound correctly, off he goes. He’s bullied for not talking right, and even though he’s a brilliant 11-year-old guitar player who likes classic metal /rock) he’s still shunned. Especially by his ex-best friend Brent.

The book goes over the whole sixth-grade year (which is a bit excessive, I think, for a middle-grade book), following Rory as he learns to navigate 6th grade without his best friend. He makes new friends, he enjoyed speech class because of his super cool teacher, Mr. Simms, and after Brent has a bike accident (he’s hit y a drunk driver) and ends up in speech class with Rory, he learns to maybe find a way to get past the betrayal he felt from becsue of Brent’s actions. Oh, plus there’s a bully.

I felt like, reading this book, I could play Middle Grade Novel Trope Bingo, and get at last a bingo, if not a blackout. Magical white male teacher? Check. Magical Negro friend who is super upbeat and inspirational? Check. Cute girl, who he has a crush on but is afraid to tell her? Check. Super good at something unique, like the guitar? Check. Clueless parents (overprotective mom, and dad he can’t connect with)? Check. Bully who is “ethnic”? Check. So. many. tropes. I got so tired of trope after trope after trope. Tandon is a speech pathologist, and I could tell that she wanted to highlight some interesting and different methods to get kids to say their sounds right. But that was the only part of the book I felt she cared about. The rest of the book – from the bullying at school to the breakup with the friend, to the ineffective parents (all around – Brent’s mother made him RIDE THE BUS the day he started back at school after his accident. What parent does that?!) was just mediocre at best.

*sigh* You can’t win them all.

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.

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

Two Graphic Novels about Belonging

Huda F Are You?
by Huda Fahmy
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Content: There are instances of racism and Islamaphobia. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

In this loosely autobiographical graphic novel, Fahmy tells of the time in her childhood when her parents moved the family to Dearborn, Michigan just so they could be a part of a bigger Muslim community. Huda went from being the only Muslim to one of many hijab wearers. She talks about the struggle she had to figure out who she was, in relation to her friends, her family (and sisters), and her religion. There is an incident with a teacher who grades Muslims harsher after 9/11 and a slight bomb “scare” at the high school, that brought Huda’s conflicts within herself to a head. Can she stand up for herself, especially in the face of Islamaphobia?

I adored this one. I think everyone can identify with the feeling of being an outsider, but I can empathize with identifying with a religion where you are in a place where your religion (mostly) is in the minority, and then moving somewhere where it is the majority religion. It messes with your head and identity. I loved the humor of this book and the way it treats religion as something that can be a big part of a teenager’s life, without it seeming all-encompassing or something the teen needs to “grow out” of.

Smart, fun, and worth reading.

The Tryout
by Christina Soontornvatillustrated by Joanna Cacao
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Content: there are some instances of racism and bullying. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Also loosely autobiographical, Soontornvat reflects upon 7th grade and the way trying out for the cheer team affected her. She grew up in a small town in Texas, and her parents – a mixed-race couple (her mom is white, her dad is Thai) – ran a Chinese restaurant in town. She reflects on how har it is to make and keep friends in middle school, and the ups and downs of friendship. But the central challenge is Christina’s desire to try out for the cheer team. It’s a challenge becasue her best friend Megan is trying out as well and Christina fears that it wil negatively affect their friendship. They encounter racism (Megan is Iranian) at their small-town school – none of the teachers can pronounce Christina’s last name, and some kids are blatantly racist to her and Megan. Christna works hard, though, and finds value in trying out for the team, and along the way, makes and strengthens friendships.

This is another good one about finding where you belong. Middle school is rough, and I think Sontornat recognizes that. THis one reminde me a lot of Real Friends, centering navigating female friendship in the heart of the book. But I also like how it debunked some of the cheer stereotypes and reminded me (again) that cherlieading isn’t just a fluff thing that popular girls do. I really appreciated the author’s note at the end.

Really soild.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

by T. Kingfisher
First sentence: “There was a dead girl in my aunt’s bakery.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: there is some death by murdering and mild swearing. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Mona doesn’t consider herself a wizard. After all, all she does is small magic – like make bread rise or gingerbread men dance. But when a girl turns up dead in her the kitchen of her aunt’s bakery, she soon discovers that someone is out to get her (and all the other people who do magic in her town). And, since now of the adults in Mona’s life seem to be doing anything, she and her friend (the brother of the dead girl) soon decide to challenge the powers that be and make someone listen.

People have been recommending this to me for a while now, and I guess I just felt that Now was the time to read it. I mean, who doesn’t love a possibly sentient sourdough starter named Bob? But it was also more than that: it was about inclusiveness, about finding one’s power, even if you think it’s small, and about making and keeping friends. It’s very sweet I get why Kingfisher self-published it: it’s not really an adult book, but it’s not really a YA one either. it sits in that publishing no person’s land, where if you like the sort of thing – baking, slight mysteries, magic, etc – you’ll probably love this book.

I fell on the love it side, and I don’t regret that at all.