Sunday, August 18, 2019

MMGM (8/19/2019): Click by Kayla Miller

For MMGM, I am recommending the graphic novel Click by Kayla Miller.

          The main character of Click, fifth-grader Olive, is friends with basically every kid in her grade. She can strike up a conversation with anyone in school, and she often spends time with her classmates outside of school as well. However, when Olive's teacher announces that the fifth-graders will be putting on a variety show, things start to go awry. All of Olive's classmates form groups and start planning their acts, but none of them ask Olive to join. Olive wonders if her friendships meant anything if none of her friends think to include her—but would she even want to choose some of her friends over others for an act, when she likes them all? Olive's mother, Lucy, wants to reach out to the parents of Olive's friends and see if they will include her, but Olive doesn't want to force her way into a group that doesn't want her. However, Olive and her aunt Molly come up with an idea for the variety show that just might solve all of Olive's problems.
          Click is absolutely fantastic! One reason why is that it delves into the dynamics of school friendships in a meaningful way. Many books attempt to teach children to reach out to the people they want to be friends with, instead of just waiting for friends to come to them, but Click puts a new spin on this lesson. It asks, after you have already reached out to numerous other kids and they still don't think to include you, if it is worth attempting to be the third wheel in a group where you may not be wanted. There's no great answer to this question, but Click lays out the issue in a three-dimensional way so that Olive can make the right choice.
          I also like that Click makes sure to show readers both that Olive has actually reached out to others (she is constantly chatting with her classmates even as she feels left out) and that her classmates are interesting enough and nice enough that it is all the more painful for Olive to feel left out. The likability of these classmates leads into another interesting question that Click poses: if only a few of your friends reached out to include you, would you want to isolate yourself from all of your other friends by joining their group? Again, there is not a fabulous universal answer to this question, but there is a completely satisfying answer for Olive's specific situation, making the end of the story fulfilling and worth the wait.
          Another aspect of Click that I love is its emphasis on family. Olive's mother Lucy and aunt Molly both try to help Olive with the variety show. Although her mother's method of reaching out to other parents is a bit misguided, she clearly means well and wishes the best for Olive, which is nice to see. Olive's aunt Molly also puts a lot of thought into how best to help Olive, and she even invites Olive to stay with her for the night so that they can consider her options. (The solution they come up with is a satisfying one, by the way, and despite some subsequent conflict, the book ends happily.) Olive's family isn't perfect; her mom and aunt get into an argument at one point that is related to their own experiences in a variety show as kids. However, her family is always there for Olive, and sweet family moments (of Olive talking to Aunt Molly in the car, of Olive watching TV with her mom and younger brother, Simon, and of Olive, her mom, her aunt, and her brother all cooking a family meal together) remind readers that, even when friends can't be there for you, family can.
          Finally, I want to mention the art in Click. I love author Kayla Miller's art style—characters have expressive, detailed faces, detailed hair, and stylish outfits, and the environments that the story takes place in are fully fleshed out, from the books on the back seat of a car to a coffee mug with a saying printed on it. The color in Click (which seems to have been done by Miller and colorist Katherine Efird) is fantastic as well; bright colors abound, keeping readers' attention and maintaining an upbeat feeling. All in all, with its thoughtful treatment of the hard-to-answer questions about friendship, its emphasis on looking to family when friends fail you, its abundance of happy moments with both friends and family, and its wonderful art, Click is a graphic novel I recommend to absolutely everyone!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

MMGM (8/12/2019): Just Jaime by Terri Libenson

I'm back again! Today, I am recommending the graphic novel Just Jaime by Terri Libenson (the sequel to Invisible Emmie, which I reviewed almost a year ago, and Positively Izzy, which I reviewed two weeks ago).

          Just Jaime, like all of the books in the "Emmie & Friends" series, switches between the viewpoints of two characters: Jaime (whose story is told in prose with frequent illustrations) and Maya (whose story is told in comic-book-style panels). Jaime and Maya are best friends, and they and another girl, Grace, are part of a friend group "led" by a girl named Celia. Celia is one of the most popular kids in school, and she leads her friends in making rude comments about other students behind their backs. (These students include characters from previous books in the series, such as Emmie and Brianna, making for an interesting tie-in to the previous books.) Eventually, Celia, Grace, and even Maya begin to turn on Jaime, who they feel still acts too childish; they judge her for not yet liking boys, wearing certain kinds of outfits, etc. When something happens that severely endangers Jaime's position in the group and friendship with Maya, both Jaime and Maya are faced with tough decisions about the people they care about and the ways they want to feel and be perceived.
          I love Just Jaime for so many reasons! One is that it tackles an exceedingly difficult subject matter with plenty of thought and insight. Many of us struggle to figure out how children and teenagers can be so cruel to each other, whether peers or even friends. Just Jaime gives us a look inside the minds of the children who do awful things to each other, and it shows us why they might do those things (especially as part of groups) and why they might struggle to leave those groups (even when it seems to us like the obvious solution). Readers will empathize with the characters of the story, even as they are appalled/horrified by their actions. Just Jaime also discusses the idea of forgiveness: should we forgive others for their wrongs and risk them hurting us again, or should we shut people out after they make mistakes, even though we might want them to forgive us if we made a mistake? How should we decide between these options? In the wrong hands, a book similar to Just Jaime could have been filled with incorrect assumptions and lacked empathy. Luckily, in author Terri Libenson's hands, Just Jaime is one of the most thought-provoking and fascinating books I've ever read.
          One thing I also love about Just Jaime is how it uses humor to stay lighthearted. Like in Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy, many of the illustrations feature captions filled with gags. As an example, in one illustration, captions label all of the items a character is bringing to the pool, such as "towel" and "sunscreen," and one caption says "courage (not shown)". There are also some visual gags; for instance, there is a running gag (continued from Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy) of a girl running frantically to the bathroom after eating some stomach-upsetting food. These jokes keep the book fun, even with such unpleasant subject matter. Yet another continuation from the previous two books in the series is the tradition of a twist at the end of the book. It's not as earth-shattering as the ones in the previous two books, but it is still exciting and ties up a minor plot line quite nicely. All in all, Just Jaime is a fantastic read that deals with a timely and important subject in an enjoyable, even fun way!

(P.S. I mentioned in my review of Positively Izzy that the books in the "Emmie & Friends" series could be read in any order. I do NOT recommend reading Just Jaime until after Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy, however, as it features spoilers of the main plot lines of those two books. Positively Izzy CAN still be read before Invisible Emmie if so desired, however.)

(P.P.S. This past Thursday was the third anniversary of Completely Full Bookshelf! I am so grateful to all of you, my readers, for commenting on my posts, for entering in my giveaways, and for giving me a reason to recommend books! I also want to thank the authors of the books I have reviewed for providing wisdom, insight, and fun to children and teenagers. I'm excited for this next year!)