Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier


Drama by Raina Telgemeier

The author of the award-winning Smile returns with another graphic novel that captures the turmoil and thrill of being a teen.  Here the focus is on high school theater.  Callie loves theater, but not being an actress, instead her passion is set design and working behind the scenes.  This year she gets her big chance with the production of Moon over Mississippi as the main set designer.  She has a big vision, the question is whether she can pull it all off.  In particular, the cannon scene proves very challenging, but Callie knows she just has to have the cannon really fire on stage.  In the meantime, Callie is getting to know two handsome twins who are also interested in theater, enjoying her friendship with the other stage crew members, and dealing with lots of drama onstage and off. 

Telgemeier has created a graphic novel that both actors and those behind the scenes will love.  It is great to see a book focus on the efforts that it takes to really get a show running, rather than just who gets to be in the spotlight.  The story is welcoming and inclusive, just like any great theater crew.  There are gay characters, crushes on both the right and wrong people, mistakes on stage, and much more to love.  She has captured high school without being fanciful at all.

As with her previous book, Telgemeier’s art has a combination of empathy and humor.  She laughs along with her characters and never at them.  It’s a crucial difference that makes her books all the more laudable and readable. 

Highly recommended, this is one for the Glee fans and also for all of those teens who work behind the scenes rather than dreaming of time on stage.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Review: Squid and Octopus Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu

squid and octopus

Squid and Octopus Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu

In a series of short stories, the friendship of Squid and Octopus is revealed.  Together at the bottom of the sea, they have a several cheery adventures.  In the first story, the two get into a fight over whether mittens or socks should be worn when the weather gets cold.  It turns out that both do a great job of keeping you warm and an even better one when shared.  The second story focuses on a dream that Squid had that gave him super powers!  The only bad thing is that he’s sad now that he’s awake and normal again.  It’s up to Octopus to show him just how super he really is.  The third story has a boot sink to the bottom of the ocean.  Octopus tries to figure out what to do with it.  In the final story, the friends have a fortune cookie but worry about what sort of fortune it might contain.  All of the stories have an innate and natural sweetness to them that is striking.

Nyeu’s storytelling strength is on display in this picture book.  Though the text is nice and brief to appeal to younger audiences, Nyeu doesn’t keep it too simple.  Instead he builds in warmth and depth with words.  Just a few extra touches make this book even more memorable.

The book is illustrated with Nyeu’s trademark simplicity and limited palette.  Using greens, oranges, yellows and blues, the colors are sherbet and deep sea.  Nyeu is also a master of white space, using the background almost as another color in his work. 

A delightfully sunny picture book set in the ocean depths, young readers are sure to find two new friends here.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.