Ghost Book

Everyone knows that ghosts can be terrifying. Many can rattle off stories about wandering spirits and vengeful entities that chilled the blood, but some might forget that ghosts aren’t always scary. One could point out that being a ghost is like having red hair or being double-jointed; it’s an aspect of that person’s (or spirit’s) character but it’s not the totality of it. The overall ghost story might tone down the terror for the audience or because the author wants to tell a different kind of story involving ghosts and the afterlife. Such is the case of Ghost Book, written and drawn by Remy Lai, a book about ghosts that speak to kids while also tackling some complex topics like grief and friendship.

The story begins with two children who were born on the same day, and are tied together due to some cosmic shenanigans. July Chen is considered eccentric by many of her classmates, when they notice her at all. She has what’s called Yin Yang eyes, which allow her to see ghosts, including the hungry ones that come out during Hungry Ghost Month. Despite her father’s insistence that ghosts aren’t real, she still sees them and William, who is not a ghost but a wandering spirit caught between the realms of the living and the dead. July tries to help her new friend get back to his body, but the price to save him may be too high.

Young readers will find a plucky protagonist in July Chen, who is considered by many of her peers to be “weird” but is still a brave, resourceful heroine when it counts. She is also dealing with the loss of her mother, who died when she was born, and a father who practically refuses to talk about July’s mother. As July tries to protect William, readers will also see a friendship that begins because both children are terribly isolated (William, because of his condition, and July, because of her reputation), but that bond grows more as they go on a quest into the realm of the dead where many terrors await them.

The art does depict some unsettling images of hungry ghosts. Looking like rejected sketches while Edvard Munch was painting “The Scream,” their empty eyes and repetition of the word “hungry”—all drawn in a sickly gray speech balloon—make them seem even more inhuman and terrifying. They become especially frightening when they are drawn toward William as a potential snack. However, the book balances the frights with lighter fantasy elements, like the bumbling Ox-head and Horse-face, who look exactly like their names imply. They are collectors of wayward spirits and are also pursuing July and William, but they are also more interested in eating dumplings than meeting their quotas.

The book exists in a world of Chinese mythology while also dealing with some universal truths. Ghost Book is a Orpheus-like descent into a fantastical underworld while also serving a moral about the hold grief can have over the living. Its simplistic artwork does imply that this story is for children, those who might see a little of themselves in William or July, but it also doesn’t pander to its audience and should be a part of any children’s graphic novel collection.

Ghost Book
By Remy Lai
Macmillan, 2023
ISBN: 9781250810434

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 years

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation:  Indonesian,

Smaller Sister

Lucy has always been her older sister Olivia’s biggest fan, always wanting to be just like her. But when everything starts changing, their relationship moves in ways that Lucy isn’t ready for. In Smaller Sister, Maggie Edkins Willis tells the sisters’ story across several years, showing how their relationship fluctuates as their lives do. 

Like many younger siblings often do, Lucy wants to be an important part of Olivia’s life, starting from their earliest days. Olivia is outgoing and athletic with lots of friends. If they spend more time together, maybe those qualities will rub off on Lucy and she’ll finally be able to make some friends that stick. She’s trying her best to emulate her sister when their parents throw their world into disarray by announcing they’ll be switching to a new school, a smaller one where both sisters can shine. This is the first of two school changes the sisters must deal with in the book, with the second involving a move to a new state as well. 

Lucy uses art to express herself and to discover who she is. Her expectations and desires for who she wants to be are shown in her doodling. She attempts to change her personality by mirroring Olivia or the popular girls at school before meeting people who appreciate and value her exactly as she is. Both sisters find that there is no perfect body, no perfect way to be a teenage girl, and that finding a space for yourself to be your authentic self is one way to crush your self doubt. 

Smaller Sister covers several years and deals with a lot of topics. Perhaps the most notable is Olivia’s struggle with anorexia. The book begins with a content warning for eating disorders. Changing schools and moving is never easy, especially when you’re also dealing with the realities of being a tween. Lucy doesn’t quite understand what’s going on with her sister for some time and this creates a rift between the sisters, making Lucy feel even more lost and distant from Olivia. As Lucy gets older herself, she also begins to struggle with disordered eating and the overwhelming need to have an ideal body staring back at her in the mirror. It is not the main topic of the book, but it is a significant one, and important to note to potential readers. 

One of the most endearing parts of Smaller Sister is the notes between the sisters written in their Secret Sister Code. Each note is written in their special code, with a translation box offered. The sisters share their secrets and concerns with each other through these letters, some of which go unanswered. The detail of these is great and their inclusion is consistent throughout the story. Their code reinforces their connection and why Lucy is so upset when Olivia is drifting away from her. 

The art is very appealing and reminiscent of other middle grade realistic fiction graphic novels. You see the growth of the characters, both age and personality wise. The colors are bright and vibrant when the story calls for it, muted and darker when the mood changes. The characters’ expressions jump off the page and are very realistic. 

The book is a story of growing up and the time when you go from a child to a teen. Readers will find themselves relating to one of the sisters’ struggles, as they deal with everything from the aforementioned disordered eating to first crushes to being left out of friend groups. There are also brief mentions of not wanting to be around anymore while Olivia is in treatment for her eating disorder. Because of this, it is recommended for an older middle grade or younger young adult audience. 

Readers of Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Friends: The Series and Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm’s Sunny series will likely be instant fans of Smaller Sister

Smaller Sister
By Maggie Edkins Willis
Macmillan Roaring Brook, 2022
ISBN: 9781250767424

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation:  Anxiety, Eating Disorder

Prunella and the Cursed Skull Ring

Prunella, a young girl raised by an image obsessed mother, finds community among monsters she was raised to fear. Prunella and the Cursed Skull Ring, written and illustrated by Matt Loux, is a fun middle-grade read about the power of acceptance and the danger of fear.

Prunella’s town has been consumed by fear against dangerous monsters just outside the city walls. In fact, those city walls aren’t enough, they must make them taller to protect against evil invading their town. Prunella isn’t interested in the fear mongering, instead she runs home to work on her backyard garden, where she uncovers a strange red skull ring. Out of curiosity, Prunella tries the ring on, the ring gets stuck, and Prunella turns into a skeleton.

Everyone in town, including her own mother, see a monster instead of a young girl and willfully ignore her pleas for help. Prunella is literally kicked out of town, exiled to the forest beyond the city walls. She is alone and lost in a place she has been taught to fear. With nowhere else to turn, Prunella decides to follow a small group of wisps who lead her deep into the forest to a thriving monster community. This monster community is everything her town is not. Instead of fear, they accept and instead of defensiveness, they help.

Upon learning Prunella’s story, a kind pirate skeleton offers to lead her through the monster territories for help with the cursed ring. Along the way she meets a number of monsters who each in their own way are happy to help her on her journey. The story is filled with moments of silly humor with clear examples of kindness and acceptance. Young children who are forming their sense of justice (and humor) will enjoy this fantastical journey. There are clear connections with politics and news stories that focus on fear and walls against neighbors across borders. The young children reading this book, however, will focus on the young girl who does not fit into her at home and instead is embraced by loving monsters.

Real danger is in a community controlled by fear. The monsters, of all kinds, are warm and welcoming to Prunella, open to learning more about her and quickly accepting her differences and strengths. For a story that is so clearly about the benefits of diversity and accepting the other, I wish there was a little more intentionality in descriptions. For instance, the different monster groups are described as tribes, a term that is often used as an othering term for non-western cultures. The monster city, Cedarton, includes Japanese inspired architecture and food. I appreciated the references and thought the illustrations of these scenes were beautiful, but I am also not really qualified to speak on the handling of those elements and diversity in the book as a whole.

Prunella is a hand-painted comic and I particularly appreciate the illustrations in the darker and more intense scenes of the story. In a dark forest, when Prunella is without a home or community, and deep in a cave with little hope, Loux uses dark blue and green hues. Most of the illustrations have a brighter color palette, so the pages filled with blue shadows immediately shift the tone and mood of the scenes.

Prunella and the Cursed Skull Ring is a very fun comic to read, and I imagine many young comic readers will appreciate the humor, fun illustrations, and affirming story. I recommend it for children’s and elementary graphic novel collections.

Prunella and the Cursed Skull Ring 
By Matt Loux
Macmillan First Second, 2022
ISBN: 9781250162618

Publisher Age Rating: 6-10

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)

Ride On

Victoria loves horses. She used to share that love with her best friend, Taylor, when they rode and competed together. But when Victoria decided she’s more interested in riding for fun, while Taylor stayed intensely focused on competing, a rift opened between them that wound up destroying their friendship.

Which is why Victoria has left the elite stable where she used to ride for a smaller, more relaxed stable. Here she can enjoy spending time with the horses. No competitions . . . and no so-called friends. Victoria has been focused on horses for a long time, in part because riding and competing were Taylor’s all-consuming interests and the basis of their friendship. So, Victoria wants nothing to do with the other riders at Edgewood Stables. At least, not until she realizes that her peers at this stable aren’t like Taylor: they have other interests in common than just horses, and they value friendship above competition. It’s not until the kids at her new stable start talking about “Beyond the Galaxy”—a low-budget sci-fi TV show that Victoria used to love—that she realizes she can bond with people over more than one thing. Hicks notes that parts of the story are inspired by her own years as a Horse Girl, as well as her own experience with being hurt by a childhood best friend.

This is a story about finding your people and embracing your interests, as well as about horseback riding and silly sci-fi fandom fun. We also get glimpses of the various family dynamics that Victoria and her friends go home to: Victoria lives with her big sister and mentions that she got into “Beyond the Galaxy” because she would escape to her grandmother’s house to watch it when her parents fought. Victoria’s new friend Norrie resents her accomplished older brother for setting such a high bar academically, but when Norrie gets in trouble, he ends up being more supportive than she expected. Another new friend, Sam, has two rowdy older brothers who tease him a lot, but also show up for him and cheer him on.

There is no violence in the story and no action more harrowing than a brief topple off a horse. No sexual content and only the faintest hint of a possible future romance. The book does touch on some sad situations, like Victoria’s broken friendship with Taylor, but ends on a happy and hopeful note. The characters’ ages are not stated, but they seem to be about thirteen.

The art will be familiar to fans of its Eisner-award-winning creator. Like her other original graphic novels, it has a style of expressive, slightly simplified realism, with rich backgrounds and characters drawn in poses that look natural and dynamic. This book includes a lot of horses along with the human characters, and many of the settings are horse-centric, but we also get scenes at characters’ homes, a library, and other places. The colors are generally natural and realistic, but sometimes bright backgrounds are used to reflect a character’s emotional state or add drama to an action sequence.

This uplifting, realistic story will appeal to fans of other contemporary graphic novels that feature tween girls navigating friendships and feelings. Hand it to readers of of Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer L. Holm, and Victoria Jamieson.

Ride On
By Faith Erin Hicks
Macmillan First Second, 2022
ISBN: 9781250772824

Publisher Age Rating: 10-14

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

Blue, Barry, and Pancakes #3: Danger On Mount Choco

Blue the worm, Barry the frog, and Pancakes the bunny decide to enter a sundae-making contest. Their ideas are simple at first, but once they see other contestants using elaborate ingredients, Barry feels they need something special in order to win. He leads the group on a perilous journey to Mt. Choco to get the best ice cream in the universe. They find helpers along the way, but all require a price for their service, from the Easter Island head that needs Blue to rescue the sunglasses he’d accidentally eaten, to the penguins who give directions to the Yeti’s Cave in exchange for a ride there. In the cave, the Yeti requires a dance performance in order to turn over the chocolate ice cream, but Barry’s performance fails to bring the necessary funk. Blue and Pancakes must not only impress the Yeti to get the ice cream, but also find Barry and make it back in time for the sundae contest. Unfortunately, the “best ice cream in the universe” doesn’t live up to its reputation, and Blue, Barry, and Pancakes lose the contest. But Barry still gets the real prize: adventure with his best friends. 

The book features enjoyable bonus material including pictures of dance moves from the three friends, Blue’s spelunking tips, instructions for making a mini-comic, and a diagram of the Greatest Sundae in the Universe. The full-color comic-style illustrations are attention-getting and humorous. The characters are endearing and young readers will find them winsome. The panel structure is simple, typically with only a few panels per page and several full-page spreads. While the story and text are simple enough for emerging readers, the book is entertaining enough for older children and adults to find amusing, particularly the tongue-in-cheek humor and the wordplay involving the character names. The titular characters are not the only food-related trio, as they encounter a three-animal band called Banana, Nut, and Bread along their journey.

Danger on Mount Choco is a delightful installment in the Blue, Barry, and Pancakes series. The characters demonstrate close bonds of friendship and loyalty and they persevere on their quest despite obstacles. When Blue and Pancakes want to quit, they return to Mt. Choco in order to save Barry. The book has enough silliness to entertain young readers, but positive messages about friendship, loyalty, and dealing with adversity are prominent. Fans of series like Dogman, The InvestiGators, and Agent Moose will enjoy this series. Danger on Mount Choco, along with the rest of the Blue, Barry, and Pancakes series, is a great addition to youth graphic novel collections.

Blue, Barry, and Pancakes, vol. 3: Danger On Mount Choco
By Dan Abdo, Jason Patterson, Kelly Jahng
Macmillan First Second, 2022
ISBN: 9781250255570

Publisher Age Rating: 4-8
Series ISBNs and Order

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

Glam Prix Racers

Get ready to race alongside the Glam Prix Racers! This beginning graphic novel, first in a trilogy written by Deanna Kent with art by Neil Hoosan, is a rip-roaring fun time in a sparkly, candy colored world made up of magical creatures and their very animated cars. 

The story kicks off with our announcer, Zyah, showing us the map of the worlds where the Glam Prix is raced. We meet who we’ll be rooting for, the titular Glam Prix Racers, ten teammates who work in pairs together to score the final prize, the Glam Prix Cup. Each team of two is introduced via their skill measurement bars, along with their motto. It’s a quick, memorable introduction to the characters and works well for younger readers who will want to flip back to remember who is the best at what. 

Before the race itself can kick off, all team members must check in at headquarters by a certain time or else their entire team will be disqualified. Things really get moving as Mio and Mudwick go up against the clock, a swarm of bubblebees, and mysterious gears on the ocean’s floor to make it to headquarters on time. Once everyone is checked in, Queen Tallulah introduces all the teams participating and lays out the details for the race ahead of them. 

The Glam Prix Racers quickly realize winning this season of racing might not be as easy as expected when they meet their newest rivals, the Vroombot Crew. This team of mischievous robots, led by a tiny mastermind, has evil plans to destroy the chances of their opposition and are our heroes’ main foes. There is one member of the Vroombot Crew who really just wants to dance it out, which is a fun running gag through the book. 

As the first race of the season begins, readers find more of this magical world coming to life as the racers drive into the Fancy Forest. Coming in first place time wise isn’t a guaranteed win in these races. Teams must also complete side quests along the way. These side quests bring even more characters into the world, including a confused ogre, excitable glittershrooms, and extremely irritated hangry monsters. The introduction of the side quests also give the story more detail, so readers aren’t just reading along with a simple race against the clock. 

Even with this race finished, the Vroombots promise their revenge, setting readers up for another visit to the Glam Prix Racers world. At its heart, this story is about teamwork and how friendship can help you always win. Young readers who enjoy playing Mario Kart will find themselves drawn to this enchanting world, as will ones who appreciate a story about working together or ones with fantastical creatures of all sorts. There’s even a fun hidden gnome search at the end of the book, giving readers the chance to go back through the world all over again! 

Kent’s writing is silly and fun without being too saccharine and works well with Hoosan’s colorful, bubbly art. The color palette fluctuates with each new challenge the racers face. There’s some great work with darkness and shadows in the spookier parts of the story. The characters jump off the page and will certainly inspire some readers to give drawing them themselves a shot. 

Fans of stories with adventure, fantasy worlds, and friendship will find an exciting read in Glam Prix Racers and will find themselves ready to follow the team as they start their next adventure. 

Glam Prix Racers Vol. 1
By Deanna Kent
Art by  Neil Hoosan
Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2021
ISBN: 9781250265388

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Picture Books (3-8)

Maker Comics: Build a Robot!

Maker Comics: Build a RobotRobots are all around us, from our vacuums to our phones, so who wouldn’t want to try their hand at making their own? Maker Comics: Build a Robot! guides readers on how to do just that. Readers will finish ready to help the robots in their upcoming revolution against the humans!  

A possibly evil toaster oven named Toaster 2 is the book’s narrator. He’s been watching your family for a while and he’s decided to make you his sidekick in his quest for household domination. In order for that to happen, you will have to go on an intense trip around your house, fending off the forces of evil that also happen to be your family members and pets by constructing your own robots to throw them off your trail. 

Throughout the course of the book, readers learn how to make five different types of robots: a Brushbot, Artbot, Scarebot, Noisybot, and Carbot. Each bot’s creation grows on the skills learned from the previous bot. In addition to the full sized robots, one of the funnier portions of the book includes instructions for a more basic STEM craft called Kitty Distracty Throwies, perfect for, you guessed it, distracting any house cats who might get in your way. 

The cover of Maker Comics: Build a Robot! describes the book as the Ultimate DIY Guide and it does not disappoint. It is clear that author Colleen AF Venable understands the audience she is writing for. Much of the book is full of multi-page instructions, many of which are very word heavy. No piece of information is left out, to ensure that building is done safely and readers understand all that goes into robotics. There are lengthy word bubbles on the Arduino programming language, something readers will learn the basics of as they build the more complicated projects towards the end of the book. 

There are a few pages of what are essentially programming language screenshots and instruction pages on different physical materials required to complete the projects. This book is for readers looking for an intense, thoroughly detailed guide on making robots that they can use in their daily lives. At points, it even reads like a how to guide, as opposed to a graphic novel, so it fully lives up to the Maker Comics title! 

Kathryn Hudson’s art is colorful and very cartoonish, with lots of running jokes about the household where the book is set. Toaster 2’s facial expressions match his dialogue, even as he’s explaining complex topics, reminding readers you are still in fact reading a graphic novel. The artwork for the robot guides themselves is detailed and a great component for visual learners. A book with so many instructions could potentially be repetitive but the vibrancy of the art keeps the reader engaged. 

One important thing to note when considering this title is that in order to follow its instructions, you will need to purchase much more than the book itself. The robots in the book have many working parts, some of which must be purchased in advance online. Venable is sure to include where to purchase these items in the text. Expect and prepare for additional costs with this book. 

The book ends not with Toaster 2’s domination but steps on starting your own robotics club, giving the reader something to consider if they’ve enjoyed all their building so far. Maker Comics: Build a Robot! is recommended for the shelves of readers looking to learn the basics of robotics. While its targeted age range is middle grade readers, there’s a lot of crossover appeal here. Future robotics buffs of all ages will find something worthwhile in this book.

Maker Comics: Build a Robot!
By Colleen AF Venable
Art by  Kathryn Hudson
Macmillan First Second, 2021
ISBN: 9781250152169

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)

Olympians, vol 12: Dionysos: The New God

In the final volume of the Olympians series, Dionysos: The New God, the first Olympian Hestia narrates the tale of the gods. She explains how the gods defeated the Titans and created twelve thrones in Olympus. She then begins to weave the tale of the half-mortal god Dionysos. 

As the tale begins to unfold, we are introduced to Dionysos, a son of the god Zeus and the mortal princess Semele. She worships Zeus and he is drawn by her adoration; they begin a relationship. Zeus visits Semele in many different forms, since seeing the true image of a god is deadly for mortals. Unfortunately, after she becomes pregnant, she sees Zeus’ true god form, bursts into flames, and dies. Zeus saves the baby by sewing the baby into his thigh. Dionysos is born and so begins the tale of his complex upbringing. 

In the kingdom of Thebes, Dionysos is delivered to his aunt, Princess Ino, by Hermes. Dionysos is raised the first few years of his life as a mortal girl to disguise him. But the child of Zeus quickly gains enemies and is brought to the forest to live with satyrs (spirits in Greek mythology that take a half human male/half horse form). There he discovers his first love, male satyr Ampelos. Unfortunately, Dionysos’s friend and lover meets a horrible fate. Although Dionysos loses his first love, he creates the first grapevine from Ampelos’s flesh. With this grapevine Dionysos creates wine.

Heartbroken, Dionysos tries to find himself in the deserts of Syria and Egypt. He travels throughout different lands promoting his love of wine. He gains a reputation of spreading madness amongst people. Dionysos has the ability to change things with his touch. He travels around creating elixirs by changing liquids to wine. He continues his travels to Naxos, where he marries Ariadne and goes on a quest to the underworld in order to conquer death. This final mission will test everything Dionysos knows. It will take all his skills and powers to seal his destiny. Dionysos must choose to accept his complex fate as both a mortal and god. 

Even if the earlier books in the series were not read, this story of Dionysos is exciting. Dionysos is an engaging story of a half mortal/half god who goes from causing death and madness to bringing joy and love of drink. He is a dynamic character. His love for his mother and family makes his story an interesting one. He is charming and has many whimsical adventures.

The author/artist George O’Connor does a wonderful job illustrating this tale. The panels are easy to understand. He uses a lot of red and earthy tones, highlighting Dionysos’s fiery personality. 

This graphic novel is complex and will appeal to older children. There is some brief nudity and some frightening images. Children who enjoy Greek mythology will be captivated by Dionysos’s quest.

Olympians, vol 12: Dionysos: The New God
By George O’Connor
Macmillan First Second, 2022
ISBN: 9781626725317

Publisher Age Rating: 9-14
Series ISBNs and Order

NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)

Other Boys

Damian has a history of being bullied, and he decides his 7th grade year at a new school is going to be different. If Damian doesn’t speak at all, he believes the other kids won’t have anything to tease him about. This plan quickly backfires, yet Damian’s 7th grade year is also the time when he comes to terms with his homosexuality and the trauma in his past. An understanding therapist helps Damian work through his struggles and to find where he fits in the often tumultuous middle school community.

This graphic novel memoir spends about equal time on Damian’s watershed 7th grade year and flashbacks to earlier grades in school. We see Damian navigate difficulties finding friends with common interests, as he realizes he doesn’t enjoy the same things as other boys. He faces teasing for playing with dolls and wanting “girls’ toys,” and for befriending girls instead of boys at school. Damian’s heartbreaking family difficulties are also shown. He and his brother are being raised by his grandparents in a small apartment, since his mother was murdered by his father when Damian was a baby. Two older half-sisters are living elsewhere. The family is loving and close but has far less material wealth than Damian’s classmates. This is exacerbated when Damian’s grandfather dies from cancer. 

The combination of trauma from Damian’s childhood, bullying from peers, and the fear of being abnormal causes Damian a type of PTSD. The reader can experience a sense of Damian’s loneliness and anxiety about wanting to feel normal and avoid bullying. However, as the author’s note following the story acknowledges, it can be difficult to portray a lived experience in a memoir. There may be long periods of a person’s life in which nothing much of interest happens, punctuated by days and weeks of extreme significance. This results in some spans of time being shifted or condensed, especially when an author endeavors to fit one’s story into a graphic novel format. Indeed, some events of Other Boys seem to happen a bit abruptly. Once Damian finally opens up to his therapist, his life seems to make a complete turnaround immediately. It can be understood that this transformation was more gradual that what the book shows. The book’s setting in time also seems uncertain, as we see Damian and his brother playing with toys from the 80s like an Alf doll, and a Cabbage Patch Kid, and then hearing Brittney Spears references in middle school. Their toys could be secondhand, but this is never clarified. There are helpful labels at the beginning of each jump in time, which allows the reader to understand in which grade the experiences occurred.

The full-color illustrations are a highlight of the book. They are brightly colored and, as the author states in his end-note, intended to imitate the palette of his childhood including crayon drawings, video games, and fairytale books. There are some clever devices which add a playful feeling such as shaped frames to imitate the game in a section about Super Mario Brothers, and a backpack with facial features in a piece where Damian faces off against a bully. These elements add some whimsy to a heart-wrenching story, reinforcing the theme of hope in the midst of difficulty.

While Other Boys is a bit uneven in the narrative, it is an important and worthy addition to upper middle grade collections. Be aware that offensive terms for gay people are used in a few places, and the book is meant for readers mature enough to handle the subject matter compassionately. The moving timeline also requires a more adept reader, since the events do not move in a linear progression. Upper middle grade readers who allow themselves to empathize with Damian will emerge from the experience richer and more understanding.

Other Boys
By Damian Alexander
Macmillan First Second, 2021
ISBN: 9781250222817
Publisher Age Rating: 10-14

NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)