This entry into the increasingly popular kids' graphic memoir genre does something that I haven't seen very often: it stays almost entirely with the aThis entry into the increasingly popular kids' graphic memoir genre does something that I haven't seen very often: it stays almost entirely with the author's childhood memories, rather than veering into narrative or illustrative devices to shore up the narrative for young readers. It chronicles childhood anxiety and mean-girl bullying with the unresolved gauziness of true childhood experience, including some hard, ill-advised choices springing from immaturity. Pham's illustrations are pitch perfect, and do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of pulling things into a cohesive story. Not a technically perfect book, but an absolute gem among its peers....more
Very unusual book that does important work in telling stories about our past that need to be told. Gives life to a chillingly banal document detailingVery unusual book that does important work in telling stories about our past that need to be told. Gives life to a chillingly banal document detailing the value of slaves during the sale of an estate. The lack of a solid narrative makes things feel loose, and there's something odd about inventing histories for real people. Still, worth poring over and discussing....more
Lovable confection of a novel. Plays at magical realism and deep themes of loss and destiny, but at it's heart, this is a mystery/adventure with an exLovable confection of a novel. Plays at magical realism and deep themes of loss and destiny, but at it's heart, this is a mystery/adventure with an extraordinarily detailed setting and sense of wonder. The protagonist is a little too precocious, and the supporting characters are a little flat, leading to a bit more telling than showing in some cases. The problems, however, are mostly outweighed by the book's charm. Definitely a good choice for young readers in the market for lighthearted action and a coming-of-age that ends well....more
I feel like I'm not being particularly fair to this book, but I really couldn't help walking away from it thinking that it was The Crossover But WithI feel like I'm not being particularly fair to this book, but I really couldn't help walking away from it thinking that it was The Crossover But With Soccer, for good and for ill. Alexander once again weaves a complex slice of life through incredibly rhythmic and expressive poetry, which jars at first but quickly becomes more natural than prose. The protagonist once again balances the love of the game against issues in his life, with the stakes ranging from social embarrassment to physical injury to a devastating loss, and comes out the other side a bit humbler and wiser. There's even a best friend that could also be a rival.
So, yeah. The Crossover But With Soccer. Though, this book actually expands things a bit with the addition of a love interest (complete with an achingly realistic depiction of trying to get the girl without being a total dingus) and a few wise teacher mentors. Everything adds up to a fast-paced, extremely readable book that is great for fans of sports and realistic fiction, though I can't stop feeling like it isn't all that distinguished from a previous effort that I loved for all the same reasons....more
A sweet and quirky tale of three misfits brought together by a small-town beauty pageant, two of them desperate to win in the naive hope that it willA sweet and quirky tale of three misfits brought together by a small-town beauty pageant, two of them desperate to win in the naive hope that it will fix something broken in their lives, and one as a self-proclaimed agent of ruin. The setup quickly fades into the background, though, as Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly come to know and ultimately rely on one another. The big, deep-seated psychological motivations of the characters swim between the lines of a simple, emotive paean to friendship and self-discovery. I did feel a bit detached while making my way through the book, and ended up wishing there was just a bit more story upon which the clever writing and idiosyncratic characters could rest. That being said, the book is neatly plotted and surprisingly profound. An understated read, but one that stuck with me for a while after I finished....more
A deceptively simple children's story that morphs into a tale about family, mortality, and perseverance. The illustrations are absolutely wonderful (IA deceptively simple children's story that morphs into a tale about family, mortality, and perseverance. The illustrations are absolutely wonderful (I would expect no less from Peter Brown), and the story packs some very deep themes into simple, easy-to-digest language. My only quibble is that I'm not sure what audience the book is reaching for. The text is stark and free of editorializing, and the chapters are bite-sized, which makes the book read like a picture book. The later chapters, however, pack in some thrilling adventure scenes and violence against both robot and animal, aiming towards older kids. As a result, the pace feels uneven, especially at the beginning. Beyond that, though, this book is eminently lovable....more
This is the latest entry in a growing selection of graphic memoirs for kids and teens, and it does not disappoint. Astrid stumbles into the dreaded trThis is the latest entry in a growing selection of graphic memoirs for kids and teens, and it does not disappoint. Astrid stumbles into the dreaded transformative years of middle school: her best friend is suddenly a stranger, and her grand plans of becoming a roller derby champion like her new hero Rainbow Bite run into the inescapable fact that she isn't very good at roller derby. Even hard work and determination seem to turn on her, when she inadvertently alienates a new friend, too. But with a new understanding of how shad (happy plus sad) and complicated life suddenly is, she begins to discover the beginnings of a new identity hiding under the awkwardness and uncertainty that comes with leaving childhood behind.
It's a pretty familiar tale, but Jamieson's extraordinary art and the loving detail with which she describes the hugely fun world of roller derby make it stand out. Definitely worth reading for anybody who has enjoyed books like Smile and The Dumbest Idea Ever!....more
I think my love for this book is directly related to the fact that we are currently reading Beverly Cleary's chapter books to my young son. I had forgI think my love for this book is directly related to the fact that we are currently reading Beverly Cleary's chapter books to my young son. I had forgotten how bland and rote they could seem at first glance- these are just random things happening! There's no story! And yet, that's why they are brilliant. Yes, they are random things happening, and the characters are living them, and there is no moralizing or tidy story arc outside of the importance of the events themselves. That's what makes them resonate with the target audience. My son, you will note, is particularly fond of Ramona, who is starting kindergarten at the same time he is. Her problems seem very real to him.
This book has done the improbable: it has made me use the terms "literary" and "slice of life" unironically while praising it to a colleague. Gross, but accurate. Stead's simple, beautiful prose revolves around a group of middle-school girls trying to figure out how to negotiate friendships, relationships, and the burgeoning process of becoming a new person. The romance aspect is sweetly ordinary, and while the main plot concerning the fallout of taking and sending PG13-rated pictures does have some tension, it resolves itself in a fairly tame fashion. This is a book about simply living, and it's authentic and wonderful.
The perspective shifts sometimes get a little awkward; the only criticism I have of the book is that a particular point-of-view thread could have probably been rolled up into somewhere else for clarity's sake while not affecting the overall quality of the book. But otherwise, this is a singular book that is perfect for school-age kids reading up and middle-grade/teen readers looking for a nostalgia hit. It's certainly not the most exciting book in the world, but I'm very glad I read it....more
I really want to like Nielsen's books. I really, really do. But just as with The False Prince, this one left me unsatisfied. It's action-packed, and fI really want to like Nielsen's books. I really, really do. But just as with The False Prince, this one left me unsatisfied. It's action-packed, and full of both cool fantasy tropes and accurate (and interesting) Roman history, but everything happens at the surface level without lingering too long on the details. There is a lot of hand-waving involved in explaining this alternate Rome's magic and religious lore, and since there are a whole lot of these elements introduced throughout the book, none of it feels particularly cohesive. The characters are engaging but not all that deep, and the protagonist is pretty unlikeable when he isn't in the thick of action (which, to be fair, is most of the book).
I don't know. The star rating indicates that I didn't like the book, but that's not really true; I found it very readable and fun, especially in the latter half. I just think it's squarely aimed at younger teens and those without much experience with the fantasy genre. This is a perfect read-this-next for those coming off of Rick Riordan's books, and is otherwise a enjoyable, if lightweight, diversion....more