Graphic novel writer and illustrator Mike Holmes, best known for graphic novel series Wings of Fire and Secret Coders, has crafted an emotional tale that some readers may relate to. His new book, My Own World, tells a heartbreaking story about the harshness of reality and how people may cope with tragedy. It may be a difficult sell for most libraries, but it is a story that is needed in any collection.
Nathan’s summer is not as fun as he hoped it would be. Instead of hanging out with his older brother Ben, watching movies and going to the pool, he is stuck at home doing chores or dodging bullies when he explores his hometown. Not only that, something is going on with Ben and no one has told him yet. Nathan needs to get away from everything right about now. Lucky for him, he discovers an abandoned lighthouse in the woods that leads to a magical portal. What’s on the other side? A red colored world were time slows down and anything can be created using bright balls of white. Soon Nathan creates his own world with new friends and adventures, far away from the anxieties of home. But how long can he stay away from the real world before it starts creeping into this new one?
Mike Holmes’ graphic novel touches upon a difficult subject for any reader to experience, the death of a sibling. But how he provides the readers with this plot point gives them permission to experience Nathan’s troubles with him. The first half of the story gives readers clues about what is going on within the family, but the truth is not fully revealed until Nathan is ready to leave his magical world once and for all. Afterward, readers experience his heartache and grief as he witnesses his brother’s passing. Along with this experience, Holmes’ tale also touches upon childhood anxiety and the difficulties in experiencing something new, whether it is a change in the family or learning how to make friends. As for his artwork, Holmes has made some interesting choices when it comes to color, which becomes a reminder to readers about the differences between Nathan’s two worlds. Nathan’s dreams and adventures through the portal are depicted in red tones with a black gutter separating the panels. The real world is depicted mostly in shades of yellow, blue, green and white, with shadows to add depth. These choices are unique, but for readers who enjoy visuals as much as storyline, they may find it less inviting.
With its emotional storytelling and visuals, My Own World may be a hard sell for some libraries. However, stories about grief and coping are needed within public and school library collections. With that in mind, librarians should consider this book if a middle school patron is coping with their own personal loss or if they are looking for a story that has a mix of realism with some fantasy elements.
My Own World
By Mike Holmes
Macmillan First Second, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)