Saturday, September 22, 2012
Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a fun, new graphic novel aimed at middle graders.
At this year's BEA, I was fortunate enough to attend a unique party at Scholastic! Like many publisher parties, there were plenty of authors there to meet; however, Scholastic put a new spin on "getting to know" the authors. They had some fantastic authors actually acting out scenes from some of Scholastic's hottest fall releases. One of the books I was most excited to read was the graphic novel DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier.
Earlier this year, I just happened to pick up a copy of SMILE that I had purchased for my daughter at the Scholastic warehouse sale. You can read my review here. I was blown away by the story and the illustrations; and I honestly couldn't wait to see what Ms. Telgemeier had in store for her next book. In SMILE, she managed to write a very touching story with many important messages, but she also made it extremely entertaining!
While SMILE was based on the author's real-life tween experiences after a major accident left her with no front teeth, DRAMA is a fictional account of Callie, a girl who loves theater and wants to be part of her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi. (I should probably add that Ms. Telgemeier also loved theater as a girl but this story is not autobiographical!) Unfortunately, this play is a musical and Callie can't carry a tune, so Callie becomes part of the crew as the set designer. Callie takes her role in the play very seriously and is determined to have an eye-popping set (with a cannon!) despite her budgetary constraints. Like many productions, this one has its fair share of problems including Callie's inexperience, declining ticket sales, and (get ready for it!) issues between the actors and crew. As anyone who lives with a tween (or probably even knows one), you just knew that everyone wasn't going to just get along. Life is full of "drama" when you're in middle school!
I actually found DRAMA to be delightful! I don't know if I loved it quite as much as SMILE, but it's pretty darn close. I absolutely loved speech and drama when I was in middle school and I even performed in a few plays, so I was able to relate to many of the issues despite being thirty years past the target age for this book. However, I think it's because I'm a parent of an eighth grader that this novel resonated with me. Ms. Telgemeier has an uncanny ability to write entertaining and relevant books that tweens should not miss. I especially appreciate that she tackles some of the more complicated issues in a tween's life including friendship, competition, jealousy, crushes, peer pressure, parent problems, and even homosexuality, but that she also provides lots of humor to lighten up these serious situations.
It's only recently that I've even started reading graphic novels, but I have to admit that I do enjoy them. I guess I was kind of a snob (or maybe just ignorant) and didn't really consider them to be to be equal to "real" books. Boy, have I been proven wrong! The more I read this genre, the more I'm impressed. Not only are Ms. Telgemeier's illustrations adorable, but she is able to fully capture a story as well as the characters' emotions in her drawings. SMILE explores as many themes as any middle grade book, and it's actually in a format that tweens might appreciate -- even the ones who are most reluctant to the idea of reading!
DRAMA would make a fantastic tween book club selection or even a great choice for mother/daughter book clubs. Some of the themes in this book that are definitely worthy of more discussion include anything surrounding the drama of the play like jealousy, competition, backstabbing, disappointments, and even eventually working together. However, there are also some other relevant relationships issues pertaining to crushes and discovering one's true sexuality. Because this graphic novel is so perfect for tweens, I'm certain they won't have problems relating to one or more of the characters; and they will find plenty to discuss.
Overall, I think DRAMA is a fantastic book and a must-read for tweens... especially those interested in theater.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a copies of these books.
If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!