If you haven’t become addicted to the best of tween graphic novels, you have no excuse to wait. This year, two new additions have swept onto the scene, captivating young readers–and their older siblings and parents as well. Both books are memoirs in the same vein as Cece Bell’s El Deafo, exploring with truth, pathos, and humor the ups and downs of friendship and life at school with in and out groups. Shannon Hale is a well-known award-winning writer, turning to the genre of the graphic novel for the first time as she teams up with best-selling illustrator LeUyen Pham, while Terri Libenson makes her debut. We highly recommend both novels to start off your summer reading.
Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Shannon herself is the main character, of course, in this graphic memoir of best friends Shannon and Adrienne. Their friendship begins when they are very young and only heads into troubled waters when Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, a”popular girl” and leader of a clique calling itself The Group. Hilariously–and poignantly–true-to-life. A wonderful mother-daughter book to read and discuss with upper elementary school girls. (And boys will enjoy it as well.)
Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson
Though this is her first book, Terri Libenson is no newcomer to writing and illustrating. (Check out her award-winning comic strip The Pajama Diaries.) Invisible Emmie is a wonderful companion book to Real Friends. It’s the story of two very different girls: one a popular extrovert and the other: well, the title says it all. Emmie feels invisible at her school and the graphics throughout the book complement the girls’ daily experiences, with Emmie mostly in black and white comic strips, and Katie in full color. The event of a note getting into the wrong hands is cringe-worthy–but leads to a cross-roads where the two girls lives intersect. There are some real surprises here as we experience through the novel the ups and downs, boredom and excitement, not to mention humor and humiliation, of the middle school experience. A stunning debut! I’ll be watching for more from Libenson.