The Tryout

Finding your identity is easier said than done. You can try a variety of clothes, hobbies, sports, etc. and still be unclear on who you are and where you fit in. In the end you may find your place but you may also realize that it doesn’t matter where you stand, as long as you stay you.  Newbery Honoree Christina Soontornvat relates her troubles with identity in her new book The Tryout. Partnering with illustrator Joanna Cacao, Soontornvat narrates her journey to become a middle school cheerleader and finding where she fits within her group of peers.

Christina and Megan have been best friends since grammar school. The duo had spent countless hours swapping secrets, playing with dolls, and chatting on the phone. But as they enter the seventh grade, Christina fears that their friendship will never be the same. Not only that, Christina has been feeling out of place. She needs to find something that will guarantee her a place within her middle school population, so why not the cheerleading squad? They are popular, adored, and amazing at performing different tricks and keeping the audience pumped. So when tryouts begin for new students, Christina and Megan jump at the chance. But will joining the squad change their middle school status and still keep their friendship intact?

The creative partnership of Christina Soontornvat and Joanna Cacao is a success in this coming of age story. Soontornvat does not hold anything back in her narration. There are scenes of stereotyping and racist comments witnessed by Christina and Megan. Moments of distress and anxiety are shown, with characters’ letting their emotions come out through actions or words. But after these scenes of distress, instead of letting hateful words keep her down, Christina is able to fight back in her own way. Readers will appreciate her devotion to her faith and identity, as well. Joanna Cacao includes scenes of pray within Christina’s Thai temple and her Presbyterian church, with Soontornvat’s explanation on Thai culture and comparisons between the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha. Cacao’s illustrations also include a diverse community being able to thrive within a mostly Caucasian town. Cheerleading stunts and tricks are shown from panel to panel, allowing the action to flow without interruptions.

Public and school libraries (especially those who have students in grades 4-8) need to have The Tryout on their shelves. It’s a great choice for any young reader who enjoys being on the pep squad or is on the path of trying to find their place in middle school. Place it right next to other coming of age comics, such as Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, Kayla Miller’s Click and Kathryn Ormsbee’s Growing Pangs.

The Tryout
By Christina Soontornvat
Art by Joanna Cacao
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338741261

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12:

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

Freestyle

The boroughs of New York City are filled with the stylish moves of breakdancing teens and tweens. But what happens when they add a twist to their routine?  Breakdancing and yo-yo tricks are an unstoppable pair in Gale Galligan’s newest graphic novel Freestyle. The author and illustrator use their skills to create a story with relatable characters having fun expressing their style and flair on and off the dance floor.

The breakdance crew Eight Bitz need to practice every weekend if they want to win the upcoming dance competition. Their team captain is pushing their limits, causing rifts between members. However, things get a bit more chaotic when team member Cory is grounded until his grades improve. Not only that, he is stuck with quiet studious Sunna as his tutor. At first the two have trouble getting along, but things soon change when Cory watches Sunna perform some expert yo-yo tricks. As she flicks her wrist and lets the plastic bauble fly to and fro, Cory becomes mesmerized and wants to learn all the techniques. As the two become closer, however, members of Eight Bitz take note. With tensions in the dance team rising, a few members confront Cory and question his loyalty to the team and their friendship.

Gale Galligan’s artwork and storytelling go very well together. Not only are readers introduced to the world of breakdancing and yo-yo competitions, they are treated to a story of middle schoolers foraging and maintaining friendships while preparing themselves for that next level in their academic careers, high school. Each character has their own recognizable strengths which they use to achieve their goals and weaknesses that they combat in their own way. The cast is very much diverse, with characters of different gender identities and nationalities. There are also pressures of perfectionism and meeting parents’ standards within the story, common occurrences in the lives of most middle schoolers.

What really brings this story to life is Galligan’s artwork and panels packed with slick dance moves and yo-yo throwing action. In double page spreads, tweens are jumping and moving to a hip hop beat while spinning yo-yos fly in all different directions. The artist’s choice of using a bright color scheme adds to the excitement of the pages, giving readers a chance to pore over every single detail. Their research into both activities is prominently shown throughout the story, with characters using different lingos and names to describe routines, movements, and positions.

Illustrator and author Gale Galligan combines the quick moves of breakdancing and yo-yo tricks to create an exciting, heartfelt story of friendship and expression. Public and school libraries should consider this graphic novel in their collections, especially those who cater to devoted readers of Raina Telgemeier and Kayla Miller. Middle school readers and fans of Galligan’s work on The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels will definitely want to give this book a try and perhaps look into the exciting world of yo-yo tricks and dance crews.

Freestyle
By Gale Galligan
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338045802

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation:  Taiwanese-American,  Genderqueer, Nonbinary
Character Representation: Chinese-American

Miles Morales: Stranger Tides

Miles Morales is adjusting to his identity as the new Spider-Man in town. It can be tough, but it has some serious perks, like being a guest of honor at the release event for the video game launch of the century. Which is awesome . . . except it turns out the game is a trap set by an alien mastermind who plans to use it to destroy humanity.

Everyone who logs onto the game—or even sees a video of it—is frozen in a state of suspended animation. Miles would be one of them, but he is grabbed at the last moment by an unlikely rescuer: former supervillain Trinity. She and another villain, Vex, have been working with a powerful alien entity called the Stranger, who is responsible for the video game plot. According to the Stranger’s plan, in three days, the frozen people will unfreeze and attack everyone else, causing potentially millions or even billions of deaths. But Trinity doesn’t actually want humanity destroyed, so she proposes a team-up to save the world.

The problem is that the Stranger is powerful. Maybe too powerful even for Spider-Man, his loyal “man in the chair” Ganke, and Trinity to take on. Especially when Miles is distracted by worrying about his own friends and family who have been frozen by the game. Things are looking grim, but as it turns out, Trinity is not the only surprising ally willing to help Spider-Man take down the Stranger.

Miles is brave and goodhearted and has all the snarky banter one expects from a Spider-Man. His friendship with Ganke, in particular, feels caring, real, and full of fond ribbing. But Miles also feels things deeply, especially when someone he loves is hurt. This book gives considerable page time to Miles’ worry about his beloved uncle Aaron, who became frozen while driving and crashed his car, ending up in the hospital. Other family and friends are targeted by the Stranger as the book goes on, strengthening Miles’ resolve.

The art is angular and colorful, giving the pages a lively look even before the additions of classic superhero visuals like action lines and sound effects. Kool-Aid-bright colors highlight the neon lights of the city and the larger-than-life characters, settings, and action sequences. The cast is racially diverse and the characters visually distinct and expressive. Screentones are used frequently, but subtly, often to highlight a character’s altered state: for instance, simple screentones help differentiate the frozen people from others, and is one of the visual indications used when Miles turns invisible.

The stakes are high in this story, with danger both global and personal, but things do work out well in the end. The frequent fight scenes are full of teleportation and spider webbing, but no blood or graphic injuries.

This is a smart, fast-paced story with lots of superpowered action. Hand it to young readers who want a relatable hero with attitude and heart. Fans who enjoy seeing superhero comics written by popular YA authors may also like this volume’s preview of Captain America: The Ghost Army by Alan Gratz.

Miles Morales: Stranger Tides
By Justin A. Reynolds
Art by Pablo Leon
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338826395

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation:  African-American, Guatemalan
Character Representation: African-American, Puerto Rican

Squished

Being one of seven children isn’t easy. Everyday is another day of chaos in the Lee household. It’s even more stressful when all you want is a little space of your own, but it’s always just out of reach. That’s the dilemma facing Avery Lee in Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter’s Squished

It’s the summer before sixth grade (middle school!) and 11-year-old Avery is determined to make the most of it. When her parents inform her that her older brother Theo will be getting his own room, she becomes set on getting the thing she wants the most: her own private space. That’s right, somewhere without her younger siblings climbing all over everything, somewhere where she can work on her art, and where she can spend solo time with Miss Kitty, her beloved cat. Things reach a tipping point when her younger brother Max decides to make himself the center of attention and rush the stage at Avery’s fifth grade graduation. Between that and Theo getting his own room, her goal for summer is doing what she can to get her very own bedroom. 

Avery’s attempts at making money to fund her bedroom are a bust; she can’t seem to do anything without her siblings involving themselves and turning every situation into a disaster. Then her best friend meets another friend, one who has her own pool! Just when things seem like they can’t get any more hectic, Avery’s parents inform her they’re considering a cross-country move. Sure, she might be her dad’s helper extraordinaire, but how can she trust her parents when they want to leave Hickory Valley, the only place she’s ever lived, her home? 

Squished is the story of a summer of change. Avery is an immediately likable protagonist, one who kids will find relatable, especially ones struggling to find their place in their own family. She acts impulsively and is often quite selfish at multiple times throughout the book. She is not a perfect daughter, sister, or friend, and these qualities only make her more appealing as a main character. She acts on emotions and doesn’t always think of how her actions affect the people she cares about. Readers around Avery’s age who find themselves struggling with how to handle big emotions may find a sense of solidarity with her. 

The book’s art is warm and realistic, with individual character’s personalities shining through in their depictions. Readers see the frustration and the stress, along with their joy and familiarity, in the character’s faces. With so many kids in the house, there’s often action happening behind the scenes in the busier panels. It’s hard not to feel the stress Avery is facing with so much happening right in front of you on the page. 

With its emphasis on life in a big family, readers who enjoy The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels, as well as readers who liked the delightful Allergic, Lloyd and Nutter’s first graphic novel collaboration, also for middle grade readers, may find Squished up their alley  Readers outside of the intended age range may also find themselves drawn to the Lee family; there’s someone and something for nearly everyone to relate to in Avery’s story. 

Squished
By Megan Wagner Lloyd
Art by Michelle Mee Nutter
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2023
ISBN: 9781338568936

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

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

Invisible

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.

Invisible
By Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Art by Gabriella Epstein
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338194548

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

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

Bug Scouts, vol. 1: Out in the wild!

Mike Lowery’s distinctive art style can be seen in a wide variety of formats, including popular picture books, graphic novels, and activity books. Scholastic Graphix, which has been a forerunner in the comics market for kids, from the ground-breaking Bone to the record-breaking sales of Dog Man, is now expanding into beginning chapters with Graphix Chapters. The two are a natural fit and Mike Lowery’s new series, Bug Scouts, is a wonderful addition to the ever-growing options for beginning chapter readers who love comics.

Meet the Bug Scouts! Doug is “some kind of bug” with a spherical blue body, wings, antennae, and a cheerful disposition. Abby is a worm who loves books, dirt, and Bug Badges (she really REALLY loves getting Bug Badges!). The third, and reluctant, member of the Bug Scouts is Josh, a grouchy spider who only likes snacks. Doug and Abby are welcoming a new Bug Scout, Luna, a bug who looks rather like a miniature Doug, but with extra glow, since she’s a lightning bug. Chapter one ends with the Bug Scout Oath and the friends are ready for adventure in the next chapter. Together they go on a hike, earn some bug badges, have a frightening encounter with a frog, and even Josh ends up participating.

Lowery’s art, which is blocky with bold lines, shows to great advantage in an early reader or beginning chapter. The large, bold font and simple shapes make it easy for kids to follow the story and keep the characters straight. Their emotions are shown with grins, smiles, or frowns, nervous sparks of sweat, and lots of exclamation points, to show how excited most of the Bug Scouts are (just not Josh). The friends search through an imaginary forest, collecting plants and encountering various other creatures, but it’s clear that it’s a cartoon world. The galley provided by the publisher was in partial color, showing an array of muted, natural colors from a variety of greens to the bold blue of Doug and Luna, and not forgetting browns, oranges, and soft reds.

At under 60 pages, with short, simple sentences, this humorous offering is just right for readers transitioning into chapter books and more complex graphic novels. Readers who love Elephant and Piggie and Scholastic’s Acorn imprint will gravitate naturally to this, although kids who prefer more facts in their reading will want to stick to Elise Gravel’s Arlo & Pips or Anstee’s Shelby & Watts for a more informational experience. Readers who aren’t ready for Dav Pilkey will also appreciate this goofy adventure and it will tie in nicely to outdoor programming and activities.

Bug Scouts, vol. 1: Out in the wild!
By Mike Lowery
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338726336

Publisher Age Rating: grade 1-3

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)

Mimi and the Cutie Catastrophe

Mimi is a happy-go-lucky girl with a charmed life—literally. Her stuffed dog, Penelope, is alive and equipped with sparkly magic that, among other things, allows Mimi to change her outfits at will. (This is not an ambiguous Calvin and Hobbes situation: everyone knows that Penelope is a living, magical plushie.) Mimi and Penelope are best friends, and they play together every day.

Mimi loves using Penelope’s magic to dress up in cute clothes. But today, being cute doesn’t seem as fun as usual. Mimi’s mom tells her not to get her cute clothes dirty. A friend’s dad won’t let her help out with moving things—he just says it’s cute of her to offer. And when the cool girls at the playground say Mimi is cute, they make her sound like a baby. Mimi gets frustrated. She’s more than just cute!

With Penelope’s dress-up magic, Mimi can try on different personas. What if she looked like a mighty superhero? Or a smart, in-charge teacher? Or a cool girl? Can Mimi find a version of herself that feels right—and remember to be a good friend to Penelope?

Shauna Grant is the creator of the webcomic Princess Love Pon, which stars a Black magical girl and draws on classic magical girl tropes like the cute companion creature, the pretty costume, and the sparkly magic powers. Unlike the heroine of that comic, Mimi is not a classic magical girl—being very young, she spends her days playing rather than fighting evil—but she certainly has some magical girl hallmarks. She even changes her outfits in a sparkly sequence with magic words!

The art style is somewhere between chibi anime characters and a Western cartoon. The colors are mostly soft, with lots of pink and purple, especially in Mimi’s room and wardrobe. The characters have big, expressive eyes and rounded features, and are decorated with fluffy details like Penelope’s ears and Mimi’s pigtails and puffy skirt. They are all, whether Mimi likes it or not, cute. The human cast is comprised entirely of Black and Latino characters. Race is never discussed, but there are some nice touches that readers of color may relate to, like Mimi waking up in a hair bonnet.

As a graphic novel designed for younger readers, the artwork is clear, and most pages have four or fewer panels. The dialogue is straightforward, but not overly simplistic or babyish. Besides Penelope, the main characters are all children, and they have interests that will be familiar to kids: wanting to have fun with friends, but also to be seen as cool and capable.

The story is a magical take on a common theme: being yourself. It has some strong emotional beats, as when Mimi begins to get frustrated with everyone calling her “cute” and Penelope hugs her, saying, “Maybe no one meant anything bad by calling you cute… but how you feel right now is what’s important.” Mimi is surrounded by caring, supportive people who did not mean to belittle her, but the book acknowledges that sometimes we feel things that aren’t what others meant to make us feel… and that we can do the same thing to others, as Mimi does to Penelope when she decides that cool girls don’t play with plushies.

This gentle, feel-good story will appeal to young readers who like sparkles and (sorry Mimi) cuteness.

Mimi and the Cutie Catastrophe Vol.
By Shauna Grant
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338766684

Publisher Age Rating: 7-10

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)
Creator Representation: Black, Character Representation: Black,

The Rema Chronicles: Realm of the Blue Mist

Fifteen-year-old Tabby Simon is in a depressing rut. Her father died seven years ago in a mysterious accident. His death was attributed to mist emitted by the strange tree he was studying, but Tabby doesn’t buy that. So now, she spends all her free time studying the tree herself, in secret. But it’s going nowhere . . . until the day a handsome boy with glowing blue eyes shows up, and everything changes.

Tabby is pulled through a portal and finds herself on another planet. Rema is a beautiful world, full of alien architecture and sweeping vistas. It is also dangerous. The geists, people with supernatural powers, are feared and shunned – and some of them are plotting against the government. The Keepers, meanwhile, travel between worlds and protect the realm. The blue-eyed boy, Philip, is a Keeper who is also, secretly and unhappily, a geist. He promises to get Tabby home, but that proves difficult—maybe even impossible. Meanwhile, Tabby and Philip are beginning to grow attached to each other. Would either of them even want her to leave Rema?

And that’s before Tabby meets a strange being who knew her father. A being who knows what really happened to him—and who wants something from Tabby.

It’s easy to feel for Tabby: she’s an intensely lonely kid who misses her dad, doesn’t get along well with her mom, and seems to have no friends. This ends up being convenient, as she is not terribly upset by the prospect of being stuck in Rema, unable to return to Earth. Philip, too, is lonely. He has no family and is isolated by his dangerous secrets. The book drops hints of a tragic backstory, too. Tabby finds Philip handsome and kind, and he finds her sympathetic and easy to talk to. Throw in a lot of blushing and one very emotional hug, and an Earthling-Reman romance is born.

The romance is not the only plotline likely to be expanded in future books. There is the mystery of what happened to Tabby’s father, and also the geist rebel who suggests that Tabby can expect a visit from one of the Reman gods. Lots of reasons to keep reading the series!

The world of Rema, in which most of this book takes place, is lush and imaginative. Its history, religion, laws, and social structure are introduced in this book, but it feels as if we have seen only the tip of the iceberg. The visuals underscore the alien feel of the world: not only is it full of whimsical architecture and art, but it is often seen from above, as citizens of this city can fly.

The characters have a manga-influenced look – some more than others – but they are simpler and more realistically-proportioned than many manga characters. They fit well with the backgrounds, having a similar level of detail and smooth, organic feel.

Many graphic novel readers will be familiar with the Amulet books by Amy Kim Kibuishi’s husband, Kazu Kibuishi. The series have some things in common; fatherless young protagonists who find themselves in bizarre, richly-illustrated fantasy worlds in which they have important destinies. Fans of Amulet may enjoy this series, too, especially if they like a little light romance with their otherworldly adventures.

The Rema Chronicles: Realm of the Blue Mist Vol. 1
By Amy Kim Kibuishi
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338115130

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)

Red Scare: A Graphic Novel

It’s 1953 and anti-Communist propaganda is overtaking the United States, especially Peggy Monroe’s small town. Liam Francis Walsh’s Red Scare: A Graphic Novel takes the historical event of the same name and turns it into a science fiction tale about what happens when an unknown power gets into the hands of someone looking for her own way out. 

Peggy is a loner. Since contracting polio, her life hasn’t been the same. The doctor tells her she needs to try harder to get better, but it’s not her fault. Her twin brother, Skip, is struggling too. Since their dad returned home from serving in the Korean War, home’s been especially stressful. Their mom is distant, trying to raise the kids and keep the house running, while working her own job at a local motel. Everything in Peggy’s life just seems so unfair. 

While Skip gets to stay home, Peggy helps her mom out at the motel. She’s supposed to be dusting one of the rooms but gets wrapped up in her latest sci-fi book from the library and ends up falling asleep under the bed. Before she knows it, there’s a man in the room with a briefcase with a mysterious red glow! Peggy barely gets out in time but leaves one of her crutches outside the room. When she goes back to grab it, she makes a horrific discovery the man is dead with a red handprint left behind! 

The dead man is discovered by the authorities to be a Soviet spy, right there in their own backyard. But Peggy’s life must get on as normal, except now the kids at school think she caught some Commie cooties from the spy. The next day, she meets her new neighbor, Jess, whose family moved to the town with secrets of their own. Jess is outgoing and outspoken, everything Peggy isn’t, and keeps encouraging her new friend to have a little gumption. 

Then something happens. Peggy can fly. That mysterious glow she saw in the hotel room? It’s now in a rod hidden in her once left behind crutch. She and Jess fly all over town! She can do hopscotch again! The FBI won’t leave her family alone though, so she has to keep her new discovery extra secret to protect them. 

It’s at this point that Red Scare turns up the pace, with almost non-stop action and reveals. With its retro comics inspired style, readers who love adventure will not be able to put it down. Nothing in Peggy’s town is what it seems, everyone is suspicious, and the damage and danger of witch hunts permeates the story. Even with its frequent fight scenes and sci-fi inspired action, this book still tells the story of a young girl, her family, and what standing up for the right thing means. Plus, a twist ending! 

Walsh’s art is perfectly appropriate for the time era Red Scare is set in. The background details are era appropriate as well, without overwhelming the story. The use of color, particularly various shades of red in some of the final panels, adds to the plot and tension of the story. 

One of the highlights of this book is the author’s notes at the end. Walsh puts Peggy’s story in a historical context, with information about the Atomic Age, Red Scare, and polio for his readers. He also includes sketches of his work over the years, giving readers a look at the long process of creating a detailed, historical graphic novel. 

Readers who love history, science fiction, and action will enjoy Red Scare. This graphic novel will pair well alongside the history of 1950s America in any classroom setting and will create a conversation amongst its readers while taking them on a fast paced story of one girl and a glowing red rod. 

Red Scare: A Graphic Novel Vol.
By Liam Francis Walsh
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338167092

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: Mobility Impairment,

Miss Quinces

What’s not special about celebrating your quinceanera? This traditional fifteenth birthday celebration is a special time for many young ladies as they enter adulthood. But there is always someone who is a little hesitant in keeping up with traditions. For Kat Fajardo’s protagonist in her newest graphic novel, Miss Quinces, a family party with dancing and dresses is not her thing.

Young comic artist Suyapa Yisel Gutierrez, or Sue for short, is so not looking forward to her trip to Honduras. Not only is she miles away from her friends and summer camp, she is staying out in the country with no cell service, Wi-Fi, or cable and visiting her loud relatives. Things go from bad to worse when she finds out that her mother is planning her quinceanera behind her back. The family is so excited for her but Sue would rather skip it. Wearing a frilly dress and making speeches is just not her. However, with some coaxing from her grandmother and a willing compromise with her mother, Sue settles into the planning stages of her party and gets a chance to finally express herself.

Fajardo’s graphic novel combines the craziness and love of family. Readers will be reminded of their own families after witnessing emotional and hilarious scenes between Sue and her relatives. The main character’s journey to rid her of self-doubt and to be expressive in her own special way is reminiscent of any teenager’s life. Along with her storytelling, Fajardo has created a diverse cast of characters with their own unique style and expressions. Scenes of Honduras’ countryside, city life, folklore, languages, home life, and meals provide U.S.-based readers with a look into a place different from their own, Readers of Latinx descendant will find a connection with Sue and her culture, especially young girls who are preparing for their own quinceanera. For those unfamiliar with the celebration, the author provides a brief explanation of the party, its traditions and photos from her own.

Kat Fajardo’s Miss Quinces is a definite purchase for school and public libraries. Middle school and junior high school readers who enjoy reading graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier, Kayla Miller, and Terri Libenson will want to give this one a try. For libraries who serve a bilingual community, it will be beneficial to include Miss Quinces in their graphic novel collection, along with the Spanish edition that will be published simultaneously with the English one.

Miss Quinces Vol.
By Kat Fajardo
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
ISBN: 9781338535594

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation:  Latinx,  Character Representation: Honduran, Latinx,