Funny, compassionate, and thoughtful.

NORMAL

ONE KID'S EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY

Nathaniel Newman and his mother, Magda, recount how Nathaniel’s Treacher Collins syndrome has affected their family.

In alternating passages, the authors relate how, after being born with severe craniofacial deformities affecting his hearing, eating, and breathing, Nathaniel underwent “sixty-plus” surgeries before age 16. Along the way, he and his family faced kids’ curiosity and adults’ insensitivity. Magda’s poignant, sometimes absurdly humorous endeavors to raise Nathaniel and his little brother, Jacob, as normally as possible emphasize how Nathaniel’s disability shaped their family; siblings of kids with disabilities will sympathize when Magda describes how Jacob’s needs came second. Nathaniel is witty and matter-of-fact about his condition, concluding that “it would have been easier to be born ‘normal,’ but far less cool.” Throughout the book’s second half, the authors discuss how R.J. Palacio’s book Wonder (2012) encouraged empathy for kids with craniofacial and other differences, and fans of the movie will appreciate thought-provoking peeks behind the scenes. Despite being dubbed “Auggie Pullman come to life,” Nathaniel abundantly shows that he’s his own multifaceted person. Flashbacks to Magda’s childhood in Poland emphasize the importance of family and imagination in tough times. Though their story sometimes feels disjointed or overstuffed, its breadth reflects their personally extraordinary but emotionally universal journey. As Nathaniel observes, “I’m not normal, and neither are you.” Swaab’s full-page cartoon-style drawings introduce each chapter. The Newmans present white. Magda is Catholic; her husband and sons are Jewish.

Funny, compassionate, and thoughtful. (Memoir. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-63183-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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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 breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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