An understated and utterly believable account of a personal and creative journey.


An exploration of one girl’s changing relationship with ballet.

Fans of the author’s 2006 graphic memoir, To Dance, will enjoy revisiting her life. As a girl in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1974, Siena began taking ballet classes, reveling in the strength and freedom she found in the art form. Eventually, she auditioned for a spot at the School of American Ballet and began training in New York City, where she made friends, relished the opportunity to immerse herself in ballet, and dreamed of dancing for the New York City Ballet. But as Siena grew older, her attitude toward ballet was no longer so uncomplicated, straining her relationships with her friends and her mother, who was embroiled in her parents’ bitter divorce, and causing her to question what her future would really hold. Through straightforward prose and narration, this work shows many of the highs and lows of ballet. While the narrative never veers into the melodramatic, it nevertheless portrays the complicated feelings that come with early dedication to this craft, including issues with body image, injury, and more. Small moments, such as mastering a step—but only on one side of the body—ring especially true. Evocative, purple-toned illustrations bring to life both the dynamism of ballet and the fearful images lurking within Siena’s head. Siena’s father came from Cuba; her mother’s ethnicity is not specified.

An understated and utterly believable account of a personal and creative journey. (Graphic memoir. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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The trials of a high school basketball team trying to clinch the state title and the graphic novelist chronicling them.

The Dragons, Bishop O’Dowd High School’s basketball team, have a promising lineup of players united by the same goal. Backed by Coach Lou Richie, an alumnus himself, this could be the season the Oakland, California, private Catholic school breaks their record. While Yang (Team Avatar Tales, 2019, etc.), a math teacher and former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, is not particularly sporty, he is intrigued by the potential of this story and decides to focus his next graphic novel on the team’s ninth bid for the state championship. Yang seamlessly blends a portrait of the Dragons with the international history of basketball while also tying in his own career arc as a graphic novelist as he tries to balance family, teaching, and comics. Some panels directly address the creative process, such as those depicting an interaction between Yang and a Punjabi student regarding the way small visual details cue ethnicity in different ways. This creative combination of memoir and reportage elicits questions of storytelling, memory, and creative liberty as well as addressing issues of equity and race. The full-color illustrations are varied in layout, effectively conveying intense emotion and heart-stopping action on the court. Yang is Chinese American, Richie is black, and there is significant diversity among the team members.

A winner. (notes, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-079-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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