Humorous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful.

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THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE

GROWING UP BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN

Yelchin delivers a darkly humorous slice-of-life account of growing up in the Soviet Union.

Living with his mother, father, brother, and grandmother in a tiny room inside a communal apartment in Leningrad, young Yevgeny does not have much privacy. He sleeps underneath the family table, where he spends his nights drawing in secret on the underside of the table. He draws to try to make sense of the confusing world around him, where neighbors spy on one another, everyone seems to be keeping secrets, and only the most remarkable, talented citizens are allowed luxuries like private apartments, cars, and the opportunity to travel outside the country. Yevgeny’s older brother is a talented figure skater, and his parents are desperate to uncover a latent talent in him so that he can make a good life for himself, yet he unwittingly foils their well-meaning attempts in several comical incidents. Furthermore, the family’s Jewish identity puts them at a disadvantage in a country where antisemitism regularly rears its ugly head. Yelchin’s line drawings, re-created from his childhood sketches under the table, punctuate his story with visual humor and pathos. The vivid dialogue exchanged among his elders provides comic relief to many of the stark situations depicted as Yevgeny tries to hang onto hope amid the chaos and uses what considerable artistic talent he certainly possesses to try to envision a better future for himself and his family.

Humorous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful. (Memoir. 10-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1552-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A likable journey that is sensitive to the triumphs and agonies of being a 13-year-old girl.

FRIENDS FOREVER

From the Friends series , Vol. 3

Shannon just wants to get through eighth grade in one piece—while feeling like her own worst enemy.

In this third entry in popular author for young people Hale’s graphic memoir series, the young, sensitive overachiever is crushed by expectations: to be cool but loyal to her tightknit and dramatic friend group, a top student but not a nerd, attractive to boys but true to her ideals. As events in Shannon’s life begin to overwhelm her, she works toward finding a way to love and understand herself, follow her passions for theater and writing, and ignore her cruel inner voice. Capturing the visceral embarrassments of middle school in 1987 Salt Lake City, Shannon’s emotions are vivid and often excruciating. In particular, the social norms of a church-oriented family are clearly addressed, and religion is shown as being both a comfort and a struggle for Shannon. While the text is sometimes in danger of spelling things out a little too neatly and obviously, the emotional honesty and sincerity drawn from Hale’s own life win out. Pham’s artwork is vibrant and appealing, with stylistic changes for Shannon’s imaginings and the leeching out of color and use of creative panel structures as her anxiety and depression worsen.

A likable journey that is sensitive to the triumphs and agonies of being a 13-year-old girl. (author's note, gallery) (Graphic memoir. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-31755-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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A delightful story of love and hope.

OUR SUBWAY BABY

Families are formed everywhere—including large metropolitan mass-transit systems!

Baby Kevin, initially known as “Danny ACE Doe,” was found in the New York City’s 14th Street subway station, which serves the A-C-E lines, by one of his future fathers, Danny. Kevin’s other father, Pete (author Mercurio), serves as the narrator, explaining how the two men came to add the newborn to their family. Readers are given an abridged version of the story from Danny and Pete’s point of view as they work to formally adopt Kevin and bring him home in time for Christmas. The story excels at highlighting the determination of loving fathers while still including realistic moments of hesitation, doubt, and fear that occur for new and soon-to-be parents. The language is mindful of its audience (for example using “piggy banks” instead of “bank accounts” to discuss finances) while never patronizing young readers. Espinosa’s posterlike artwork—which presents the cleanest New York readers are ever likely to see—extends the text and makes use of unexpected angles to heighten emotional scenes and moments of urgency. The diversity of skin tones, ages, and faces (Danny and Pete both present white, and Kevin has light brown skin) befits the Big Apple. Family snapshots and a closing author’s note emphasize that the most important thing in any family is love. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.3-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 43% of actual size.)

A delightful story of love and hope. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42754-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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