What happens when five middle school children from different walks of life wind up working together to complete their community service hours? Well, they complete their assignment, just not the one they were given. And while doing so, they discover that they are more than what their school perceives them to be. Invisible, written by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (award winning author of The Red Umbrella and Concealed) and illustrated by Gabriela Epstein (contributing illustrator for the Babysitter’s Club graphic novel series), gives readers a story about overcoming expectations and being seen as someone who can make a difference.
Conrad Middle School students George, Sara, Dayara, Nico, and Miguel have one thing in common: they all speak Spanish. They don’t know each other nor have they ever hung out together, but that all changes when they need to complete their community service hours. Their assignment: cleaning up the cafeteria each morning under the stern gaze of cafeteria lady Mrs. Grouser. As they take out the garbage and organize utensils, the group meets a mother and her young child who live in a car next to the school. Throughout the week, the children provide them with food, books, soup kitchen notices, and a job listing, meanwhile getting to know each other and becoming friends.
What makes Invisible different from other middle school graphic novels is its cast and dialogue. Not only do you have five Spanish speaking students from different parts of Latin America, but most of their conversations are spoken in their native language. For those who are unfamiliar with Spanish, Epstein prints the speech bubbles in both English and Spanish, reminding readers where these children come from. However, author Gonzalez gives each student their own background story with situations that most children, no matter what nationality they are, may experience. As the story progresses, the readers see the children as regular middle school students who want to show others that they are more than their language. Readers are also treated to a story centered on helping others and how a language barrier should not hold you back. Epstein’s artwork provides a diverse look at the many different Latin nationalities there are and their visible differences. Any emotions from the characters, especially in difficult situations, are expressed vividly without having to use dialogue of any language.
With relatable characters and a heartwarming storyline, Invisible is a must have for both school and public libraries. With its use of bilingual text, libraries that cater to Spanish speaking communities should be willing to purchase it for their collection. As for elementary and middle school students, (preferably those in grades 4-7) they will be intrigued with the methods these characters use to help someone in need and be inspired to do the same.
By Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Art by Gabriella Epstein
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: Latine, Spanish, Spanish-American