A Dreadful Fairy Book by Jon Etter
I loved this story! It read like Etter took elements from Alice and Wonderland, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the movie Shrek, put them in a pot and stirred them all together. There are a lot of dialects used in the story that helped transport the reader into the fairy world. Etter is great at writing scenes of shenanigans— they are movie-ready! I laughed out loud multiple times at Ginch and The Professor’s trickery. I do worry that the numerous characters and dialects will be a turn-off for a lot of children, but advanced readers who like fantasy with a bit of impropriety will love it!
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
I really wanted to give this 3 stars, but I feel like my disappointment stems partially from the Newbery hype around this book. Merci Suarez is a great character and this book is good…. but it doesn’t strike me as distinguished enough for the Newbery. Its strength is its portrayal of extended family living in close quarters. Its weakness is that supporting characters aren’t as developed as they could be. It also has a quite a few loose ends in the plot- Merci’s interest is soccer and her friendship with Michael to name two.
Click by Kayla Miller
I’ve heard that Click is popular among the tween crowd and I definitely see why. It has that middle school drama feel that resonates, much like Raina Telgemeir’s Drama, Smile, and Sisters. However, I didn’t enjoy Click nearly as much as the above books. It was headed in a great direction, but ended very abruptly. I do see that Olive is getting her own series and that may offer some closure to this story. Something unique about Click is that it is very accessible for a younger audience.
Akissi: Tales of Mischief by Marguerite Abouet
This is a collection of short comics about Akissi, an Ivorian girl, and all of her family and friends. The short comics, simple plots, and hilarious “mischief” make it a quick, funny read. I really enjoyed Akissi and I think kids will find her stories hilarious, though some of the trouble Akissi finds herself in may be perplexing to an young, American audience. However, that makes it a great “window” book.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
New Kid is getting a ton of buzz and for good reason- it’s extremely relevant, touching on very prescient class and race issues. Jordan is the new kid at Riverdale Academy Day School- an elite shool that has plenty of money and sports, but not a whole lot of diversity. New Kid explores Jordan’s feelings and experiences as he navigates his new, unfamiliar environment. Many kids of color will relate to Jordan’s story, and it may even help them identify frustrations they did not fully understand before. I’m excited that this book exists and that it is written in a way that will be interesting and compelling to the target audience.
The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros
I don’t usually review picture books, because with a toddler at home, I read like 20+ a month. This book, however, really stuck out to me. It’s gorgeous in every way and the story is heartwarming and gives tangibility to an intangible feeling. In this book, balloons represent memories, and grandpa keeps losing his balloons. This worries and even angers the grandson, but upon talking to his parents, he realizes that he can preserve the memory of his grandfather in own balloons. Such a sweet story and perfect for talking with children about aging, dementia, alzheimer’s, and death.
Junior High Drama by Louise Simonson
I admit, I purchased this title for my library’s collection based soley on the title. I mean- it’s exactly what tweens love to read. It was what I expected it to be for the most part: lots of frenemies, crushes, rumors, and the like. But it also addressed some other important issues like body image and chronic disease. It is also admirably diverse. Each comic ends with a faux “interview” between characters to help elaborate on the issues experienced by the middle schoolers in the comics. It isn’t revolutionary but it appeals to the audience and discreetly offers tools for growing up.