I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (9781481476270)
Flamingo is very sad today. He wonders if he will ever feel better. A little girl and a potato, yes a potato, try to explain about emotions and feelings. At times the three of them get a bit down all together, but they quickly turn to a plan to cheer up Flamingo. The girl and potato think of things that they love, but they don’t work for Flamingo. He doesn’t eat ice cream or dirt. In the end, they decide that sometimes it’s OK to just be sad. Flamingo worries that his friends won’t like him if he’s still sad tomorrow, but they assure him that they still will. Then potato makes a joke and the book ends with lots of laughter.
Told entirely in dialogue, this is a frank look at sadness and emotion. It explains a variety of approaches to emotions, ending with the most important one which is to not push the emotions away and that they will naturally change on their own. Black’s use of a potato as a main character seems odd until his personality starts flying and it suddenly steals the show. Ohi’s illustrations are big and bold, filled with flamingo pink (of course) and other bright colors that will make this a great read aloud, particularly when shared with different voices for the three characters.
A quite happy and optimistic book about sadness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
All Summer Long by Hope Larson (9780374304850)
Bina’s summer has just started, but it’s already going wrong. Her best friend, Austin, is heading to a month-long soccer camp. He’s also acting strangely and has decided that they are too old for some of their regular summer activities. Once he’s left for camp, Bina finds herself watching too much TV and just hanging out alone. Then she bumps into Austin’s older sister who turns out to be into music just like Bina is. The two of them start hanging out but when Austin returns things stay just as strange. Bina has to navigate her way through new friendships and old ones as she also grapples with her love of music and what that means for her friendships too.
Larson is the author of several graphic novels for children and teens. Here she tackles middle-school summers with a focus on music and individuality. Bina’s summer will feel familiar to readers, a stretch of time that is meant to be the best but ends up being time that needs filling with more than binge-watching TV. The incorporation of a friendship between a boy and a girl that does not involve romance or attraction is great to see. Readers will fret that Austin’s strange attitude means he “likes” Bita, but the truth makes sense and fits the story well.
The art is friendly and approachable. Done in a limited orange and black palette, it speaks of summer heat and sun. Bita herself is lanky and tall, her angles oozing with middle-school gawkiness in an appealing way. Her parents are just involved enough but also absent in a way that shows trust too.
A graphic novel perfect for summer reading. Appropriate for ages 12-14.
Reviewed from copy provided by Farrar Straus Giroux.