Music is what connects Shaheen, a young Bangladeshi American teen, with her dad, Giovanni. It’s the backbeat to their relationship. He’s always sharing albums and their influence with her. Sometimes she’ll talk about the latest book she’s reading, but it always comes back to music with him. Then, suddenly, Shaheen’s dad disappears without a trace.

Nidhi Chanani’s Jukebox is a middle grade graphic novel filled with magic, music, and the bonds of family. Shaheen and her older cousin Tannaz discover a strange jukebox in Otis Street Records, Gio’s favorite record store. It is custom built, playing only twelve-inch records, and glows brightly when a record starts to play. When the cousins put on a Bessie Smith album, they find themselves transported back to the album’s original release. This isn’t any old jukebox—this is a time traveling jukebox! 

As they search for Gio, Shahi and Naz find themselves at significant musical moments in the twentieth century, highlighting the contributions of Black musicians throughout the years: Nina Simone, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Many of the time periods the girls stop in have historical importance as well. Their visit to 1980s Venice Beach, where someone recognizes the cousins as time travelers, offers some of the funnier moments of the book. 

The cousins’ time traveling begins to weigh on them as the book progresses. While Shahi finds herself increasingly panicked about the possibility of not finding her father, Naz begins to be physically affected. She has sensitive ears due to a childhood surgery and even begins to lose her hearing as the cousins listen to more records in their pursuit of Gio. Naz has her own unique relationship with her Uncle Gio—he is the only person to whom she has come out as bisexual—and pushes herself to the edge in the hopes of finding him. 

Mystery-loving readers will be searching for clues throughout Jukebox. The book is full of Easter eggs. Chanani includes a playlist to go along with the book, encouraging young readers to seek out these influential artists and go on their own musical journey through time. The book will also find fans in history buffs too; Chanani does a wonderful job of relating the significance of the time periods to each musician featured. 

The art is full of realistic expressions and background details that will catch readers’ eyes. The time travel pages, full of bright light and floating lyrics, are particularly eye-catching. The use of color itself is a highlight. The colors guide the story and reflect the current emotional situation the cousins find themselves in. 

Jukebox is an absolute delight of a graphic novel. Readers will find themselves wanting to listen to the amazing musicians along with Shaheen and Tannaz and go on a musical time travel journey of their own. 

By Nidhi Chanani
Macmillan First Second, 2021
ISBN: 9781250156372
Publisher Age Rating: 10-14

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: Bangladeshi-American

  • Meredith

    | she/her Library Coordinator


    Meredith is a library coordinator with the Free Library of Philadelphia. Previously, she worked as a children's librarian at a Free Library branch for seven years, where she prided herself on the graphic novel collection. She has volunteered with the ALA Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table in various positions, including as co-chair of the Convention Planning Committee, and previously served as a juror for the EBSCO SEE-IT Award for youth graphic novels. In her free time, she likes spending time with her two cats and writer husband, all things theme park related, and of course, sharing her thoughts on what she's reading, primarily via Goodreads. You can find her on Twitter at @meredithmc.

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