Started: October 18
Finished: October 19
Genre/Format/*Category: Graphic Novel, Realistic Fiction
Awards: 2015 Caldecott Honor Book, 2015 Michael L. Printz Award Book, New York Times Bestseller, 2014 Governor General’s Award (illustration), New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2014, 2015 Eisner Award, 2015 Canadian Library Association YA Book Award, New York Times Editor’s Choice, LA Times Book Awards Finalist,, BCCB Blue Ribbon Title, SLJ Best Book of the Year, Kirkus Best of the Year, YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, ALSC Notable Book, Booklist Editor’s Choice Title, Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year, Horn Book Fanfare Title, The Onion AV Club Best of the Year, Kirkus Best of the Year, Booklist Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth, Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize
Themes: Coming of Age, Self Awareness
Rating: 5 Stars
Age/Interest Range: 9th grade and up
Only child, Rose, and her family go to the same cabin near the lake every summer. She has a best friend there, Windy, who is 1.5 years younger than her. This year is starting out a little different though: Rose’s parents are passively arguing upon arrival… Their arguing somewhat allows Rose to fly a bit under the radar.
Rose and Windy have been “summer friends” for the past 5 summers, but this year their conversations/curiosities includes some new topics: their (potential) boobs, boys, pregnancies. Their conversations flow in and out of what feels realistically fitting for their age.
Young Rose becomes a bit obsessed with a high school boy, Duncan, who works at the close-by convenient store/movie rental place. Rose and Windy attempt to impress Duncan by renting rated R slasher movies and, because they are hanging there so much, overhear “teenager conversations.” One particular conversation about a teen pregnancy, involving Duncan as the father, gets Rose very curious…
Rose is caught in that young-but-not-a-baby-anymore phase in her life. She thinks she is ready for more (scary movies, talking about sex), but she’s clueless about what is coming out of her mouth. No one will talk about these topics with her because it would seem age-inappropriate.
Jillian and Mariko Tamaki capture this weird, confusing, familiar experience perfectly with words and illustrations! And I believe it’s THIS that makes this graphic novel so award winning. Illustrations are both detailed and generalized, and this artfully mirrors conversations between characters. This also reflects realistic conversations between parents with children at this age. It is a conundrum to discuss scary or mature topics with children in pre-adolescence. Add to that martial issues, and what you have is a very common (yet unspoken) family situation.
This story shows the impact and affect of being exposed to topics a child isn’t quite ready for, and how kids (attempt to) process what they don’t understand. Rose and Windy remind us of just how hard pre-adolescence is (or was). This graphic novel superbly exemplifies this universal truth in anyone’s childhood experience.
Overall Literary Merit: High
Classroom Possibilities: First of all, this title has been awarded highly and in my opinion that makes it classroom (high school in this case) worthy, hands down. That being said, this is not a title to shoot from the hip with – Careful planning and prep would make this title most useful, academically speaking. Because of all the awards won by this title, there are ample lesson plans, video interviews, guest blogs, (etc!) online. I found this one most interesting: http://forum.teachingbooks.net/2010/08/guest-blogger-mariko-tamaki/ .