YA – Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting

Neely, Kindra. Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting. Little, Brown and Company, 2022. 978-0-316-46208-2. 304 p. $24.99. Grades 8-12.

The impact of a mass shooting continues long after the crime scene has been restored and the headlines pivot to a new story. Kindra Neely learned this firsthand after she survived a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, which left ten people dead and as many injured. (Ironically, Kindra’s mother had relocated them to Oregon in part to escape the gun culture/violence in their small Texas town.) After graduating from UCC, Kindra attempted suicide when her feelings of pointlessness and numbness overwhelmed her. She kept this attempt secret for years. Later, after matriculating at Georgia’s Savannah College of Art and Design, she continued to suffer from racing thoughts and panic attacks as a result of the trauma she had experienced. Ongoing news alerts to other mass shootings re-traumatized her time and again. Eventually, she began to heal and found a way to use her artwork to share her story. The end result is this lovely, introspective graphic memoir in which Kindra bravely shares her survivor’s journey. The color palette is generally cued to Kindra’s emotions; in particular, depictions of her panic attacks are visceral and vivid. She includes moments of despair, anger, hope, and gratitude. She also includes resources for gun violence survivors and suicide prevention. 

THOUGHTS: This graphic memoir deserves a spot in every library for teens. As mass shootings continue, sadly the need for survivors to voice their stories will, too.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – What Was the Turning Point of the Civil War?

Crenshaw, Ellen T. What Was the Turning Point of the Civil War? Penguin, 2022. 978-0-593-22516-5. 64 p. $7.99. Grades 3-7.

This graphic novel, part of the “Who HQ” series, tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg through the eyes of Alfred Waud. A newspaper artist assigned to cover the Army of the Potomac, Waud traveled with the troops to Gettysburg and witnessed the three days of brutal battle that turned the tide of war in favor of the Union. The expressive illustrations are interspersed with pages of additional information that highlight lesser known facts and individuals, such as Thomas Morris Chester, a Black lawyer from Harrisburg, PA, who was a militia captain as well as a correspondent covering Black troops in the war. A text introduction sets the scene for young readers, and a conclusion rounds out the brief story. Also included are a timeline of the Civil War and, delightfully, a bibliography. The book is an excellent addition to the field of books such as the Who Was series (published by a subsidiary of Penguin). Young inquiring minds will gravitate to the graphic novel format, and the editorial choice to feature unique, little known individuals is appreciated. The publisher’s website provides additional activities and worksheets. 

THOUGHTS: A highly attractive, entertaining, non-fiction graphic novel with an unusual focus should attract interested readers. 

Graphic Novel            Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD
793.7 Civil War

Elem./MG – Your Pal Fred

Rex, Michael. Your Pal Fred. Viking Press, 2022. 978-0-593-20633-2 255p. $12.99. Grades 3-8.

Fred is activated in a post-apocalyptic world after two brothers accidentally discover him in a pile of trash. Fred embarks on a journey over a land that has been destroyed by war, aliens, a comet, and cats. It is now ruled by two opposing characters: Papa Mayhem and Lord Bonkers. Fred is on a quest to bring peace to all. Along the way he makes friends with disgruntled characters who join him to bring kindness to all. Will he be able to convince the two top dogs that peace is the answer and not war? 

THOUGHTS: This graphic novel is full of silliness and fun, and how one individual can create a positive chain reaction through one act of kindness at a time.  

Graphic Novel          Victoria Dziewulski, Plum Borough SD

Elem. – Sprinkles and Swirls

Schaefer, Lola M. Sprinkles and Swirls. Little Simon, 2022. $17.99 ea. Unpaged. Grades PreK-1. 

A Cool Day at the Pool. 978-1-665-90332-5.
Oh, What a Show! 978-1-665-91795-7.

Adventurous best friends (and cupcakes) Sprinkles and Swirls have returned in two new graphic novels. In A Cool Day at the Pool, the pair enjoy a fun day out at the pool, where they enjoy swimming, floating in inner tubes and going down the water slide. After swimming, they relax on the beach towels in the sun, but their sweetness soon attracts some ants! They take a break and travel to the nearby Spray-Ground to enjoy the water there before returning to the pool to wrap up the day on the diving board. In Oh, What  a Show!, Swirls wants to sign up for the talent show, but Sprinkles protests she has no talent. Sprinkles tries out some of the talent the other participants are planning to do–gymnastics, juggling, and biking, but she is unable to master any of them. The pair decide to help the ants in building the talent show stage, but an accident with a hammer leaves Sprinkles bleeding (and the sight of blood makes Swirls a little woozy). Despite Swirls’ encouragement, Sprinkles just can’t seem to discover her talent, and she gets increasingly upset. Swirls needs some help in practicing for her dance routine, so Sprinkles agrees to help out…and she discovers her talent–dancing! They decide to team up and enter the contest, where they are a big hit!

THOUGHTS: This enjoyable series is a great way to introduce young readers to the concept of graphic novels. In fact, the book starts with a few panels in which Sprinkles and Swirls explain to readers how to read the graphic novel format. The panels and text are large and use simple text, ideal for young readers. Both books emphasize the importance of friendship, being a supportive friend, and working as a team. A worthwhile purchase for schools serving younger elementary students looking to add to their graphic novel collections.

Graphic Novel            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Pizza and Taco: Too Cool for School

Shaskan, Stephen. Pizza and Taco: Too Cool for School. Random House, 2022. 978-0-593-37607-2. 58 p. $9.99. Grades K-2.

Best friends Pizza and Taco are back in another installment of Stephen Shaskan’s graphic novel series for younger elementary readers. The pair are sure they are going to be the coolest kids at school upon their arrival–after all, Pizza has just gotten a new backpack featuring one of the most popular shows on TV. But when they arrive at Fairfield Elementary, they discover the buzz in the schoolyard is all about a new student in their class–BLT. BLT certainly seems cool to Pizza and Taco. He wears sunglasses, doesn’t care about being late to class, and is too hip to play games with the other students at recess. Desperate to be as cool as BLT, Pizza and Taco round up some sunglasses from lost and found, hang out with BLT at recess and start showing up to class late. But, when they happen to meet BLT’s older brother, they learn that BLT might just actually be….a typical student?!?

THOUGHTS: Many students will be able to relate to Pizza and Taco wanting to emulate the cool new kid. Some readers may also identify with BLT–the new kid who (as it turns out) is putting on a bit of an act to seem too cool for school to impress his new classmates. Not only will readers learn about the importance of staying true to yourself, they will also enjoy the humorous illustrations and dialogue.

Graphic Novel            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

YA – Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice

Smith, Tommie, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile. Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice. Norton Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-324-00390-8 . 208 p. $22.95. Grades 8-12.

In graphic format Tommie Smith shares the story of how he came to stand on the podium during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics as the gold medal winner in the 200-meter sprint. Together with bronze medalist John Carlos, Smith stood wearing black socks, and the two raised their black-gloved fists to protest racial injustices. But long before that pivotal moment, Smith came from a hardworking family of sharecroppers in rural Texas. Seeing their children’s education as an opportunity for a better life, Smith’s parents moved the family and Smith’s speed eventually was noticed, giving him more opportunities than they could have imagined possible. Smith attended schools that were being desegregated and a predominantly white college, facing many life-changing obstacles that shaped him into the activist he became.

THOUGHTS: Showing how great platforms come with great responsibilities, this graphic memoir deserves a place in secondary libraries looking to update their sports and/or nonfiction graphic novel collections.

Graphic Memoir          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
796.42 Track & Field

 

MG – Freestyle

Galligan, Gale. Freestyle. Graphix, 2022. 978-1-338-04581-9. Unpaged. $24.99. Grades 3-7.

Cory Tan’s break dance team is about to compete in a big competition, and all eight members are excited. The team captain, Tess, is pushing the group harder than ever before to the point where it causes some strain in the group. Cory causes even more strain when his parents check his grades and ground him until he gets his grades back to acceptable levels. His punishment means the dance crew has to rehearse without Cory. His parents hire a tutor named Sunna, a classmate of Cory’s who is a bit of an outcast at school. She constantly is writing intensely in a notebook and barely talks to anyone. After a rocky first tutoring session, Cory discovers that Sunna has a secret: She has incredible yo-yo skills! Sunna uses yo-yo moves to help him learn geometry and in the process, Cory becomes hooked on yo-yoing. Instead of devoting what little free time he has to the dance team, he starts hanging out with Sunna outside of tutoring to work on his yo-yo moves. Eventually, Cory discovers that Sunna’s parents also have very high expectations of her which leaves her feeling like she is never good enough. Cory and Sunna have to figure out how to fit this budding friendship into their already packed lives while also navigating their parents’ and friends’ expectations of them.

THOUGHTS: The newest book from Galligan, the author responsible for the illustrated adaptations of the beloved Babysitters Club graphic novels, is a must-purchase for middle grade libraries. Featuring a diverse cast of characters living in New York City, this book shows that pre-teens from all backgrounds struggle with parental acceptance and peer pressure. The book is fun and full of heart.

Graphic Novel          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

MG – Scout Is Not a Band Kid

Armstrong, Jade. Scout Is Not a Band Kid. RH Graphic, 2022. 978-0-593-17622-1. 263 p. $12.99. Grades 3-7.

Rising eighth grader Scout Martins is desperate to attend AlmonteFest and meet author Pristine Wong, creator of the Posaune Warrior Princess series of books and video games. Unfortunately, her dad thinks New Almonte is too far away from Waltz, Ontario, but Scout isn’t ready to give up. Among the back-to-school handouts she sees a flier for the Holy Moly Catholic School Band, and its end-of-year trip to AlmonteFest. Scout attends her first practice, claiming to play the trombone, which makes her one half of the trombone section. The other half, trombonist Merrin LaFreniere, quickly susses out that Scout can’t play a note. Mr. Varma, the band director, interprets Merrin’s frustration as a lack of commitment to teamwork, and instructs her to tutor Scout to polish her trombone skills. An unlikely but strong friendship develops, though in the end Scout will have to decide if her loyalties lie with the band or with her own agenda for AlmonteFest. Created with a variety of digital tools, a blend of cool and warm color palettes reflect both the changing seasons and the characters’ emotions. 

THOUGHTS: In their first graphic novel, author and illustrator Jade Armstrong meshes timeless themes (friendship, loyalty, teamwork) with Scout’s fandom culture in a way that middle grade readers will adore.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

MG – Smaller Sister

Willis, Maggie Edkins. Smaller Sister. Roaring Brook Press, 2022. 978-1-250-76741-7. 312 p. $22.99. Grades 4-7.

Lucy and her older sister, Olivia, are just twenty months apart. While close as can be in their youngest years, the sisters grow apart when Olivia becomes more concerned with her looks and her weight than spending time with Lucy. Things keep changing when Olivia is diagnosed with an eating disorder, followed by a family move from Indiana to Massachusetts. As Lucy moves into middle school and deals with some (really) mean girls, she too becomes excessively focused on her appearance. She needs her sister’s guidance more than ever, but Olivia – and their parents – remain focused on her fragile recovery. Will Olivia be able to reprise her role as supportive big sister when Lucy needs her most? Author/illustrator Maggie Edkins Willis portrays this story of a serious topic with plenty of humor and heart. Her digital artwork and gentle color palette wonderfully depict how the sisters grow and mature over the course of several indelible years. The book’s back matter includes a note on how Willis’s own preteen years inspired this story and resources for readers who struggle with disordered eating.

THOUGHTS: Smaller Sister is an excellent choice for fans of middle grade graphic novels, sibling stories, and the fabulous works of Lucy Knisley!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

MG – Twin Cities

Pimienta, Jose. Twin Cities. RH Graphic, 2022. 978-0-593-18062-4. 248 p. $12.99. Grades 4-7.

Sibling dynamics are at the heart of Jose Pimienta’s cleverly titled middle grade graphic novel, Twin Cities. Fraternal “Lu-Lu” twins Louisa Teresa and Luis Fernando Sosa opt to attend different middle schools, on different sides of the U.S. / Mexico border that divides Mexicali and Calexico. Teresa, who is very focused on her education and future opportunities, gets up extra early and spends long hours on homework in order to succeed at her Catholic school in Calexico, California. Fernando prefers the familiarity of his local school in Mexicali. The siblings grow apart as Teresa establishes her own identity with a new set of school friends. Fernando, meanwhile, is befriended by another boy who may lead him down a dangerous path of dealing illegal drugs. Bickering between siblings gets serious when Teresa discovers her brother’s secret, and he accuses her of being a “pocha” (abandoning her culture to assimilate on the U.S. side). Author/illustrator Pimienta employs side-by-side page spreads to portray the daily experiences of each twin. It’s also a great tool for depicting the varying characteristics of a city divided by an international border. Pimienta’s “Notes on a Particular Word” provide background on their decision to use the pejorative term “pocha” in the book.

THOUGHTS: Twin Cities is full of vibrant colors, authentic details, and relatable sibling tension. It’s one of many recent, outstanding graphic novels for middle grade readers that is not to be missed!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD