Amelia McBride is a 5th grade, wise-cracking, street savvy, one heck of a funny girl. She’s going through some tough times, but her can-do attitude and ability to tell a joke in any situation is helping her get through the best of times and the worst of times. She also happens to be the star of Jimmy Gownley’s hilarious and fun to read series of comics, Amelia Rules. When the Past is a Present is #4 in a series highlighting Amelia’s trials and troubles as a young girl growing up with a single mom. One great thing is that in no way is reading the books out of order a hindrance to the reader. Amelia’s life is fun to follow, and Amelia herself is an absolutely fabulous character to get to know.

Made up of 5 short stories that all are related to the title of the book itself, readers get to know Amelia and her awesome crew of friends and foes. A handy-dandy couple of pages at the beginning of the book introduce the reader to Amelia’s fellow characters as well as Amelia’s back story to date. Unfortunately, her parents have decided to get a divorce. Her Dad is staying in New York City where Amelia grew up, and where she most feels at home. But…Amelia isn’t staying with her Dad. She’s moving with her Mom back to where her Mom’s sister, Amelia’s Aunt Tanner, lives. Aunt Tanner used to be a pop rock superstar, but she’s taking it easy now, and she’s enjoying being around her sister and niece, Amelia. Even though Amelia had to leave her very best friend, Sunday, behind in New York City, she’s making plenty of friends like Reggie, Rhonda, Pajamaman, Kyle and Joan. This collection of stories is really about Amelia discovering plenty of unknown information about her family, but she also learns that “family” doesn’t have to mean blood related.

Jimmy Gownley’s story and illustrations really bring Amelia and her friends to life. Her expressions, the speech bubbles, the background and colors that Jimmy uses to bring Amelia’s gang to the reader really bring forward the joyfulness and cheerful nature of this book and its characters. Readers of all ages will truly enjoy the stories and accompanying illustrations, but the books are really perfect for kids, and kid readers will definitely find that they share a lot in common with Amelia. Even moments of sadness, like when Amelia and readers find out that Joan’s Dad is being sent to the war in Iraq or when Amelia is thinking about her parents’ divorce, show hints of joy and delight thanks to the wonderful and brilliant illustrations. There is still a glimmer of hope reflected in the brightly colored panels and the way that Amelia and her friend Rhonda attempt to talk through a situation that they are new to and don’t quite understand will be helpful to kid readers who might be going through the same thing or have friends who are.

Amelia is just a wonderful kid to read about, and the comics that detail her life are very easy to get lost in while laughing the afternoon away!

Amelia Rules, vol. 4: When the Past is a Present
by Jimmy Gownley
ISBN: 978-141698607
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10

  • Traci

    | She/Her

    Traci has been a graphic novel selector and collections coordinator for kids and teens in libraries in Arizona and Oregon since 2005. She served as the chair of YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee, and served as a member of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens blogging team. She previously coordinated the Oregon Young Adult Network’s Graphic Rave list, OYAN’s yearly list of the best graphic reads for teens. Traci is a member of ALA, YALSA, and GNCRT. And, she achieved her greatest dream ever by serving as a judge for the 2019 Eisner Awards.

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