MMGM and #IMWAYR: Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani

I hope everyone is doing well today! As back-to-school season begins, I just want to take a moment and thank all the wonderful educators I've met in the blogging world, as well as all the wonderful educators I haven't met at all, for their tireless work in shaping the kids of today and tomorrow into better, smarter people, in spite of being under-paid, under-appreciated, and under-protected from the pandemic. I wish you all good luck!!!

I also want to mention that I did some spiffing-up on the blog this past week, so the menu and sidebar have a different layout that is hopefully a little more intuitive—I realized that things I wanted people to see were buried in sidebar widgets or other pages, while things I didn't care much about were taking up space in the main menu. Let me know if the new layout works for you or is totally confusing and awful! (Update [8/15/2021]: I just discovered that the sidebar looks weird on a larger screen, because Blogger, in their let's-put-lipstick-on-a-pig-instead-of-actually-fixing-problems mindset, made it so if you use one of their fancy new templates but don't have an About Me gadget as the first one on the sidebar, then it formats the sidebar in all kinds of creatively awful ways—random gaps in the sidebar, a sidebar that starts bizarrely low on the page, or, my personal favorite, a situation where the gadgets on the sidebar all get crammed in next to each other horizontally so each one is about two letters wide. Honestly, I don't think I care enough to change it all back, but forgive the weird wasted space.) Also, while I was sprucing things up, I updated my beginners' guide to graphic novels to be more useful, and I'm hoping to update my Ratings for the Graphic Novel-Averse soon to be a little more useful as well. Click here to see the updated guide!

Moving along, I'm going to be looking at quite a few graphic novels over the next few months as my reading time flies out the window, so get ready. Today we'll be looking at the graphic novel Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani.

Preview the illustrations on Amazon

        I had previously read Chanani's graphic novel Pashmina back in December, and I honestly wasn't a fan—it had some really great themes but felt clumsily executed in a lot of ways. But I decided to persevere and give Chanani's work another try, so I pre-ordered this book and received a copy when it came out back in June. But then I didn't get around to reading it until now, and even then, it was mainly because I've seen two different recommendations of it from Unleashing Readersone from their resident kid reviewer, Sofia, and the other from #IMWAYR co-host Kellee Moye! And after taking their recommendations and reading this book, I'm excited to say that it is actually quite a fun read, and I'm glad to have given Chanani another chance!

        Jukebox's protagonists are 12-year-old Shaheen (shown on the left of the cover) and 15-year-old Tannaz (shown on the right). Shaheen's father Gio is a music journalist who has an almost-obsessive interest in music history, visiting the record shop, and the like. Then, one day, he disappears. Shaheen and Tannaz start to investigate, and they end up in the attic of the local record shop, where a fancy jukebox resides. But the jukebox has a secret that is quickly revealed...when Shaheen and Tannaz start to play a record on it, they are taken back in time to the era when the music was made! The two of them realize that Gio might be trapped in another era, and so begins their frantic quest through different albums and different time periods to track him down...a quest that isn't without its obstacles.

        Again, I really had a blast reading this graphic novel! It was a short read for me—I started it on Tuesday and finished it on Wednesday—but the book really held my attention quite well during that time. Probably my favorite part of this book was its protagonists, Shaheen and Tannaz—they were quite compelling and likable characters! Shaheen is quite relatable to me—she's a bit of a bookworm (she recommends some books you might recognize to her father early in the story), and she's also the worrywart of the duo, not exactly thrilled to sneak into the deserted record shop at the beginning even if it means figuring out where her father is. Tannaz is the fearless one—she'll pretty much do whatever she needs to if it means having fun. But both girls are warm and thoughtful, and they have a delightful dynamic with each other that I really liked—they fight sometimes, but they find ways to work through it and support each other. Also, I particularly appreciated getting to see Shaheen stand up (somewhat tactlessly, but still) for herself and her own interests in her relationship with her father before the events of the story—when you have a father whose interests are somewhat obsessive, your relationship can get a bit one-sided, but I love how Shaheen challenges that dynamic. And it's also nice to see that the book's cast is diverse, both in terms of race and LGBTQ+ identities, and there's a little bit of exploration of the latter in particular throughout the book.

        (One quick aside: there is a moment toward the end of the book that involves hearing loss, and the book pretty clearly states that having hearing loss means missing out on the beauty of music, which I thought was not the most nuanced way of thinking about things—I know there are dances specifically for Deaf people where the music is loud enough that they can feel the rhythm as vibrations, and of course, people with hearing loss can still appreciate things like lyrics, or the music's context, etc. Obviously, this book wasn't going to be the most inclusive of people with hearing loss, but I would still appreciate a more thoughtful way of phrasing things here.)

        One main reason why I wanted to read Jukebox is that the book's premise is quite original—there aren't many books involving time travel in the first place, and there aren't many books involving music in the first place either. So combining the two? I've never seen that before, and I probably never will again. In terms of how the premise is executed, it's fascinating to see music placed in the context of historical events like the Vietnam war protests or the women's liberation movement. I was hoping for a little more detail about some of the historical events that Shaheen and Tannaz travel to, but that could always be fodder for further reading—and there are little notes on the intro page at the beginning of each chapter that explain that chapter's relevant music in the context of its time. You do get plenty of fun moments in each era, and poring over the backgrounds of each panel is also a great way to get some extra information. And while you don't get much of a sense of the music itself from Jukebox, there is an official playlist of some of the songs from the albums mentioned in the book, which, as Kellee Moye pointed out, you can find on Spotify (see the bottom of this post!) or as a literal list in the back of the book. I haven't had a chance to listen to it just yet, but I'm hoping to do so soon! In general, I do think the book focuses less on the music and history aspects and more on the adventure-panic-mystery-missing-person aspects—we see a lot of Shaheen and Tannaz working through mini-conflicts, their own fears, and issues that pop up while they try to make a plan to find Shaheen's father without risking harming themselves or even changing the past. So it's a little less informative and a little more adrenaline-filled and interpersonally-focused than you might have been expecting, but that approach brings plenty of perks!

        One of the things that I really did love about Jukebox was the art style. And I was actually really surprised to like it, since one of the things that I really didn't love about Chanani's debut, Pashmina, was the art style. But there's a big change in art style between the two books—the art of Pashmina was mostly in grayscale (except for a few full-color scenes), and I found the color scheme to be somewhat uninteresting (and even a bit confusing, since you lose a lot of contrast between people and objects). But Jukebox is illustrated in full color from beginning to end, and the choices of color are excellent—the deep purples of the attic where the jukebox feel appropriately ominous yet magical, and the different locations of time travel each have their own era-appropriate color scheme, with brighter colors that match the fun of these scenes. The illustrations are energetic (thanks to the bright colors) but not frenetic—Chanani keeps her panel compositions reasonably uncluttered, which makes it easy for readers at a glance to tell which characters are shown, what they are doing, and where they are. And the facial expressions are reasonably intuitive throughout. I'm excited to give this book my highest Rating for the Graphic Novel-Averse, because except for details that are occasionally slightly too small to see without moving the book closer to your eyes, the art style strikes an excellent balance between being tons of fun and being super-easy to interpret!

        I will say, although Jukebox is a marked improvement when compared to Pashmina, I still see traces of Pashmina's clumsy writing. I found it slightly distracting that Shaheen and Tannaz kind of switch places at points throughout the story—Tannaz starts to get nervous and fear consequences, while Shaheen gets a little too fearless for her own good. I like the idea of having characters step outside of their own box (every human does at some point or another), but I didn't really understand what force actually caused them to do so—people don't normally change their personality on a whim. There were also a few moments of dialogue between Shaheen and Tannaz where one of the two would come across as surprisingly rude to the other, and they never really addressed that beyond a brief "Sorry." The book's ending was definitely rewarding but a little odd—the major plotline ends without much buildup, and a character who had been discussed quite infrequently becomes extremely important all of a sudden during the epilogue. And as someone who isn't particularly knowledgeable about vinyl, I found some of the discussion about the jukebox a little confusing—the jukebox is apparently unique in that it can play records of a full album, instead of the presumably-smaller records that only hold a song or two, but that was never explained super-clearly. It's slightly irritating to have Chanani's clever ideas and interesting themes marred by noticeably imperfect execution, but where that irritation was constant and unavoidable in Pashmina, it is rare and easy to overlook in Jukebox—and I expect that Chanani's third graphic novel, whatever it will be, will be virtually flawless at the rate she's moving.

        Despite Jukebox's flaws, I'm still super-glad to have read it! This graphic novel takes two compelling protagonists with a great relationship and tosses them into a situation of music, history, time travel, and intrigue—it's a blend of interesting topics like no other. And since it's a quick read with an aggravation-free art style, Jukebox is a great book to cram in between longer novels if you're looking for a change of pace. I hope you all get a chance to join these characters on this exciting adventure—and if you do, between the historical events and the book's playlist, you'll have plenty of further reading and listening you can do to further dive into this book's world—and your own!

My rating is: Pretty good!



And my rating for the graphic novel-averse is: 4!





And below is the book's official playlist on Spotify—or you can view it on the Spotify website by clicking here! Again, I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I'm hoping to soon!

Comments

  1. I love that the book has a playlist, I need to pay more attention to music in general (I am definitely stuck in the '80s). I have you ever been a CYBILS judge or panelist? With all your graphic novel reading I think you'd really enjoy the experience. Starting on 8/18 you can apply to be a panelist (first round, lots of reading) or judge (2nd round, less reading). http://www.cybils.com/

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    1. Ha! I think a lot of music on the playlist is actually from the 80s or decades around it, since most of the music in the book is tied in to past history.

      And that's an interesting idea about the Cybils—I've never judged before, but I'll take a look at how it all works and see if it's something I'm interested in applying for. I really appreciate the suggestion!

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  2. OMG, this books sounds awesome!! I love the premise!! You probably know by now that i LOVE any kind of time travel plot, and playing a record to go back to its era is just so cool!! Love it.

    I hadn't heard of this one before, though I did read Pashima (also now bowled over by it). Do you know who the publisher is? I am behind in requesting graphic novels, but I need to catch up and would love to see this one.

    Great review!

    Sue

    Book By Book

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    1. I do remember that, so yes, the time-travel part would make this book perfect for you! Pashmina didn't leave a strong impression, but Jukebox is definitely an improvement on Chanani's part. And the publisher is First Second (from Macmillan)—I hope you can get a copy requested! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  3. I always love finding new graphic novels for my class and I love that this one comes with a playlist! Can't wait to find this one.

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    1. I'm so glad this one seems like it will be a good fit! I hope you and your class enjoy it, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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  4. First, thank you for all your work on graphic novels. I love a well done graphic novel and refer them to kids all the time, but I also have problems with some of them. You've given me a great guide.
    Second, I also wasn't crazy about Pashmina, but will look for Jukebox at the library, and I love the playlist.
    Thank you for sharing your insights on what you read, they are always so informative.

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    1. I'm so glad my graphic novel guide is helpful! I had an old one that I figured I would update when I was rearranging things on the blog, and I'm glad to hear that work will benefit someone. And yes, Pashmina was underwhelming, but this book is a nice improvement for Chanani's work! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  5. I haven’t read this or Pashmina. Sounds like an interesting graphic novel!

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    1. It definitely is! I personally wouldn't recommend Pashmina, just because it profoundly irritated me, but Jukebox is absolutely worth a read if it sounds good to you. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  6. I just saw about this book last week & told the granddaughters about it, obviously explaining Jukeboxes & the fun they were long ago. They will love this, both with their own playlists. It's a great review!

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    1. Ha—it's kind of a shame they don't have jukeboxes anymore, since it would be cool to get to choose a song if you're out in a public place! (Especially since sometimes the music in public places is so aggravating that I could just tear my hair out—the music at CVS is simply intolerable.) I hope your granddaughters enjoy this book, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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  7. Thumbs up on the new layout! I used to have an old jukebox handed down to me from a relative so the story intrigues me along with the historical aspect. The characters are also a draw. Thanks for telling us about this graphic novel on today's MMGM.

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    1. I'm glad to hear the new layout works! That is so cool that you used to own an actual jukebox, and I'm glad this book sounds appealing. I hope you get a chance to try it, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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  8. I love the cover for this book. And the way they time travel sounds so cool. I'll have to check it out.

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    1. The cover is a lot of fun, and the time-travel/music element is really clever! Sometimes it feels like so many books just steal ideas from other books or the general pool of book clichés, so it's always fun to see a book with genuinely unique ideas. I hope you enjoy this book if you get a chance to try it, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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    1. It definitely is, and I hope you like it if you get a chance to try it! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  10. What a fun and very thorough review! This sounds like a great read for teens with a tad of history and time travel through the music of a Juke Box. Very original! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my review! It really is a lot of fun, and all those elements you mention make for a very intriguing whole. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  11. I'm definitely drawn to the idea of historical aspects of this book. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I was too—I wished for a smidge more detail about the history within the plot itself, but I think you can read between the lines with the background art and the little notes at the beginning of each chapter and learn a thing or two (and then have some things to maybe read more about!). Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  12. Thanks for your thorough review! I like the blend of history, fantasy, and realistic fiction. How cool there is a song playlist!

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    1. Of course! It really is a neat mixture of all those different genres—there's something for everyone in here! And I really hope to have a minute to listen to the playlist. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  13. I can't wait to see Jukebox! I liked Pashmina, so I'm sure I'll love it, and my students will, too! Happy reading week!

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    1. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed Pashmina, and I hope you and your students enjoy Jukebox too! Have a great reading week as well, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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  14. I liked Pashmina so before I even finished reading your review, I went to see if my library had a copy of Jukebox. Hurrah they have it on order.
    When I came back and read the rest of your review I was excited to see the playlist. I might have to get started on it before actually reading the book.

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    1. Yay—I'm so glad your library has Jukebox, and I hope you enjoy it once it arrives! And starting on the playlist beforehand isn't a bad idea at all—I don't imagine it will spoil too much, but it should give you a nice sense of some of the music once you actually go into the story. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  15. Always up for time travel :). And my daughter loves graphic novels. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. Of course! I hope you and/or your daughter enjoy this book if you get a chance to try it, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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  16. This one sounds like a lot of fun. I think my daughter would especially enjoy this as she is starting to get into music. Thanks for your review!

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    1. It's definitely a lot of fun, and I'm glad it sounds like a good fit for your daughter! I hope you all enjoy it, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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  17. I love the playlist. Great choices in music. What an interesting mix having time travel and music. I don't read many graphic novels, but I might check this one out. It sounds pretty unusual. Thanks for your very thorough review.

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    1. I'm glad the playlist looks good to you, and yes, this graphic novel is definitely an unusual one! I hope you enjoy it if you end up trying it out, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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  18. Interesting that you liked this one more than Pashmina, since that one is probably better known. Yeah, I had to take a couple audiology courses as part of my training as a speech-language pathologist, and the description of the girls' ear problem did not seem accurate to me. I thought it was just me...

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