Guest Review: The Bad Seed by Jory John, Illustrated by Pete Oswald

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Guest Reviewer: Katie, UCF Elementary Education Student

The Bad Seed
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Published August 29th, 2017 by HarperCollins Publishers

Summary: This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad? Do you really want to know?

He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be—happy?

About the Creators:

Jory John is a New York Times bestselling author and two-time E. B. White Read Aloud Honor recipient. Jory’s work includes the award-winning Goodnight Already! series; the bestselling Terrible Two series; the popular picture books The Bad Seed, Penguin Problems, and Quit Calling Me a Monster!; and the national bestseller All My Friends Are Dead, among other books. He lives in Oregon.

Pete Oswald is an LA-based artist, kid lit author/illustrator, and production designer. He is the co-creator of Mingo the Flamingo, published in 2017 by HarperCollins. Pete is also the illustrator of The Bad Seed, by Jory John. When Pete is not working on books he is helping to uplift many of the most successful animated franchises as a character designer, concept artist, and production designer. Pete lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and two sons.

Review: I personally love this book and the character development it possesses throughout. There is a background on how the seed became to be “The Bad Seed”, which helps readers understand that there is always a reason behind their peers’ behaviors. The seed shared the things he does and the reasons he believes himself to be so bad but also a chance in his mindset, he no longer wants to be a bad seed. He starts changing his behavior and wants to be happy. This shows kids that it’s okay to want to make positive changes in themselves and it is possible for their peers to do so too. The seed also shares that he may not continue these positive behaviors at all times but does so from time to time. This shows that you can not be the perfect person at all times but it’s all about you trying to do so. With this, I think this would be a great book to start the year out with to show students that it is okay to start out being “bad” and changing for the better. It also gives students a chance to understand behaviors without telling them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book would be best for a classroom read aloud. This is because it would be a great introduction book or even if you notice there are a lot of negative behaviors happening in the classroom. It shows character development and how you can turn your behavior around. It also shows that there is a reason behind all negative behaviors and that these reasons are justifiable as well showing that you can get past it.

Some activities you could also do with it are:

Mapping: Mapping could be used for this book as you can map the journey the character takes to change his behavior from being bad to being good. You can have points that begin with the seed being happy, what happened that made him change his behavior, what he did while he was being bad, and what he started doing to become good.

Literature Logs: This could be used for older age groups, they can stop at the beginning to make connections or write down their initial thoughts after a picture walk. They can stop at different points to make inferences about what’s going to happen next or things they believe the character can do to turn around his behavior.

Graffiti Boards: This could be used just like the literature logs but may be more fun for the students as it is less structured. Here they have a chance to write, draw and interpret ideas on their own with little guidance other then the initial instructions and it can be done at any point without having to stop as a whole class to complete.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe in your own words the reasoning behind the bad seed becoming bad?
  • Why do you think the seed is considered to be the bad seed just from looking at the cover?
  • Do you think the seed will be able to overcome his “bad” behavior? Why or why not?
  • Describe a time in your life where you interacted with someone who acted like the bad seed? How did it make you feel?
  • Why do you think the seed wanted to turn his behavior around and become good again?
  • What do you think we can learn from the bad seed and his journey to become good?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Understanding behavior, colorful illustrations

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Katie, for your review!

Guest Review: There’s Only One You by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, Illustrated by Rosie Butcher

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Guest Reviewer: Jessica G., UCF Elementary Education Student

There’s Only One You
Authors: Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook
Illustrator: Rosie Butcher
Published May 7th, 2019 by Union Square Kids

Summary: This feel-good book reassures kids that, whoever and whatever they are, it’s awesome being YOU! Expertly written to include all kinds of children and families, it embraces the beauty in a range of physical types, personalities, and abilities. Kids will love discovering and recognizing themselves in these pages—and they’ll feel proud to see their special qualities acknowledged. Adorable illustrations by Rosie Butcher show a diverse community that many will find similar to their own. (Goodreads)

About the Creators:

Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook have coauthored several books for children, including Ten Lucky Leprechauns (Scholastic) and Mouse Makes Words: A Phonics Reader (Random House). Kathryn is a school psychologist and Deborah is a kindergarten teacher. They both live in WI. Learn more at helinghembrook.com.

Rosie Butcher lives in East Yorkshire and spends her summers in Sweden. Follow her @scrimmle.

Review: I really enjoyed reading There’s Only One You. It is a wonderful book embracing diversity, inclusion, and individuality. The book is filled with beautiful illustrations demonstrating what makes us unique. The book is written in a rhythmic style, so it is engaging for young readers. Each spread beautifully displays the range of physical characteristics, personalities, or abilities individuals may have. The book is filled with bright vivid colors. Each page is filled with many details. Readers will enjoy exploring each page. The book and the illustrations go beyond inclusion of physical characteristics and incorporate physical attributes and challenges such as being in a wheelchair, using arm crutches, a walker, or using a hearing aid. The book also includes multiple spreads showing differences in families. Illustrations include families that comprise of a mom and a dad, or two moms, or two dads, or a single mom, or a single dad. The authors and illustrator do an excellent job displaying diversity within each page. The book also addresses differences in personalities, such as “crying when you’re sad, or keep tears inside”. The story emphasizes that being unique is what we all have in common. It is what makes us extraordinary.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I believe There’s Only One You is a wonderful book to kick start a new school year. It is a great read aloud choice that reminds students that we are all unique and that is special. The story celebrates all learners. It also encourages empathy among students. It is an excellent aide to teach social emotional learning concepts such as self-esteem, managing thoughts, emotions,

and behaviors, and being against bullying. The book can also be used interdisciplinary in reading, social studies, and art. The text and illustrations are filled with many details that prompt discussion among readers. Students may also respond in a journal entry to some of the subjects addressed in the book or write and draw about their own family. Students may also respond by creating an acrostic poem. In social studies, students can utilize individuality to explore what makes us diverse. For example, exploring

what country each student is from, their culture, traditions, and norms. In art, students can draw a self-portrait of themselves, then share with their classmates.There’s Only One You provides a great opportunity to build a classroom community.

Discussion Questions: 

  • On page 3, the author writes, “It’s awesome being unique!” Based on what we have read so far, what do you think being unique means?
  • On page 4, the author writes, “Do your feelings spill out? Do they lay low and hide? You might cry when you’re sad or keep tears inside.” The author is trying to tell us we differ in how we express our emotions. What are ways you can respond if you do not like something or it is not what you may have wanted?
  • On pages 8 and 9, we see students at the zoo. The author wants us to know how they are different and special. How does the author tell us that the students are different? What can we see from the illustrations?
  • Is there something that makes you unique or different from your classmates?
  • On pages 12 and 13, we can see all the children doing different activities. What kind of activities do we see in the picture? Do you have an activity that you love to do?
  • On pages 14 and 15, we can see some cool tools that may help our friends. Can you recall any of these tools? How do they help?

Flagged Passages: 

 

Read This If You Love: Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López; You Are Enough: A Book about Inclusion by Margaret O’ Hair, illustrated by Sofia Cardoso; Different–A Great Thing to Be! by Heather Avis, illustrated by Sarah Mensinga

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Thank you, Jessica, for your review!

Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers edited by Rose Brock

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Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers
Editor: Rose Brock
Published: May 10, 2022 by Philomel

Summary: In a collection of personal stories and essays, award-winning and bestselling artists from Matt de la Peña and Veera Hiranandani to Max Brallier and R.L. Stine write about how hope always wins, even in the darkest of times.

Where does hope live?
In your family?
In your community?
In your school?
In your heart?


From a family restaurant to a hot-dog shaped car, from an empty road on a moonlight night to a classroom holiday celebration, this anthology of personal stories from award-winning and bestselling authors, shows that hope can live everywhere, even–or especially–during the darkest of times.

No matter what happens: Hope wins.

Contributors include: Tom Angleberger, James Bird, Max Brallier, Julie Buxbaum, Pablo Cartaya, J.C. Cervantes, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Stuart Gibbs, Adam Gidwitz, Karina Yan Glaser, Veera Hiranandani, Hena Khan, Gordon Korman, Janae Marks, Sarah Mlynowski, Rex Ogle, James Ponti, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Ronald L.Smith, Christina Soontornvat, and R.L. Stine.

Ricki’s and Kellee’s Review: We love that Rose Brock decided to take the idea of Hope Nation and create a version for younger readers because all ages need to hear stories from those they look up. This is especially true about stories that are filled with adversity and hope. Usually with anthologies from various authors, we find ourselves liking only some of the stories and finding that others are dragging; however, with this text, we found that each story fit purposefully in the book. And because of the purposeful choices, every reader will find something in the book to connect with and will learn a little bit of something from each story.

Although we liked all the stories, we did have some favorites:
-Pablo Cartaya speaks from the heart and definitely made us cry (and clap for the young lady who we know inspired one of Kellee’s favorite books, Each Tiny Spark);
-James Bird shows that there is hope even in the darkest of times and the power of a strong support system;
-J.C. Cervantes shared how a teacher changed everything even if the teacher nor the student realize it at the time;
-Adam Gidwitz writes about what so many of us have felt at one time or another, and we felt it deep in the gut;
-Christina Soontornvat shows what life can teach that school cannot;
-Stuart Gibbs tells the truth about adversity and absolute grief;
-Janae Marks speaks to how hopes and dreams can lead to different hopes and dreams, you just need patience;
-Gordon Korman speaks about that feeling of revision and the emotional roller coaster that come with it;
-Hena Khan speaks about what it means to feel different and to want to share a piece of ourselves with others;
-Sarah Mlynowski writes about the powerful bond of sisterhood and the feeling of being far from those we love; and
-James Ponti showed how even in middle school you can stand up for who you want to be, and the power of names and naming.

Although the diversity of stories and authors is vast and all readers will find something to connect with, we did wish there were a few more queer stories in the collection. With the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, we are particularly thinking about this topic. This could be supplemented by teachers with other essays beyond the collection.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: This book easily lends itself to a personal narrative unit or a college essay unit. Both of these are very prevalent in curricula, which makes this book a phenomenal fit. Ricki showed the first chapter to her neighbor who is writing her college essay, and it inspired a great discussion.

Discussion Questions:  

  • What is hope?
  • Where and how do we seek hope?
  • When have you found hope in your life?
  • Which stories resonated with you? Why?

Flagged: “The daily reminder of how our own lives can be turned upside down made me realize why it’s so important to hang on to hope. It’s not always an easy thing to do—sometimes, it feels downright impossible—but the thing I know is that difficult times in life come and go; with those experiences, we grow as people. The key is to find ways to motivate and inspire our spirits—stories of hope can do that” (n.p.)

Read This If You Love: Hope Nation edited by Rose Brock; The Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul series; Essay Collections; Anthologies; Middle Grade Authors

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RickiSigand

Review and Giveaway!: I Am Able to Shine by Korey Watari, Illustrated by Mike Wu

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I Am Able to Shine
Author: Korey Watari
Illustrator: Wike Wu
Published May 1st, 2022 by Two Lions

Summary: An affirmative, empowering story about embracing your identity and finding your voice, inspired in part by debut author Korey Watari’s experiences growing up Asian American, and illustrated by her husband, Mike Wu, Pixar artist and creator of the Ellie series.

I am beautiful.
I belong here.
What I do matters.
I am able to shine.

Each night Keiko whispers to her crane, “I wish to change the world.” She is kind, and she has big dreams. But at times she feels invisible; she knows some people misjudge her. Keiko is also loved, so she perseveres and stands strong. Over time, her confidence grows, she shares more of herself, and she helps lift up others—and eventually lead them. She understands that no matter what, she can shine.

About the Creators: Husband-and-wife team Korey Watari and Mike Wu live in the San Francisco Bay Area in California with their two lively daughters. This is their first picture book together. Korey is a sansei, or third generation Japanese American, born and raised in Los Angeles. She played basketball for a Japanese American League, graduated from the University of California Riverside, and studied at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Korey has worked in the animation and fashion industries for companies such as Disney and the Gap. This is her first picture book. Learn more at www.koreywatari.com or on Twitter at @tinyteru.

Mike is the author and illustrator of the acclaimed, bestselling Ellie series, the first picture book of which was named one of NPR’s best books of the year. He is also a Pixar artist and has worked on films including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, Coco, and Soul. His illustrations have been hailed as “reminiscent of classics like Harry the Dirty Dog and Curious George.” Visit him at www.theartofmikewu.com or on Instagram at @wudog23.

Review: Keiko’s story is beautiful! Watari’s empowering and inspirational text scream from the pages filled with Wu’s emotional and colorful illustrations. The book begins with our introduction to Keiko and her dream. Her dream to be able to be both kind and courageous, determined and hopeful, strong and loved… She wants to figure out how to balance all of her parts of personality to become who she is meant to be.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The back matter of the text takes the book to another level. The author’s note and aspects of Japanese life reflected in the book allow for an extended discussion about students’ culture, empowering differences, and filling life with “courage, kindness, perseverance, inspiration, hope, and love.”

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do Watari and Wu combine inspiration and narrative in the book?
  • How do the illustrations add to Keiko’s story?
  • How did the author’s life inspire the book?
  • How did the author and illustrate reflect Keiko’s Japanese AND American culture?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Lala’s Word by Gracey Zhang; Brilliant Bea by Shaina Rudolph & Mary Vukadinovich, illustrated by Fiona Lee; Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers by Al-Hathloul Lina, illustrated by Rebecca Green; To Change a Planet by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell

Recommended For: 

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Giveaway!!:

Giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a copy of I Am Able to Shine, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. and Canada addresses).

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

You Are Not Alone by the Alphabet Rockers, Illustrated by Ashley Evans

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You Are Not Alone
Authors: Alphabet Rockers; Illustrator: Ashley Evans
Published: January 11, 2022 by Sourcebooks

Summary: From the Grammy award-nominated hip-hop group Alphabet Rockers comes an empowering picture book that invites kids to to love themselves, stand up to hate, and foster inclusivity among their peers!

When I say something is unfair to me, but it’s fair for you, what does that make it?
When I meditate, it all gets clear.
And if you listen, you will really hear.
I am not alone. I am enough.

It can be scary to feel like you’re all on your own, especially in the face of prejudice. But always remember: you are not alone. Inspired by the Alphabet Rockers’ empowering song “Not Alone,” this uplifting picture book reassures kids that they belong and encourages them to love their beautiful selves and their identities, use their voices against hate, and step up for one another and have one another’s backs no matter what.

Review: I dare you to read this book and not read it aloud. It’s packs such a punch. It’s lyrical and powerful. I’ve now read it aloud to four different children, and every time, they end up shouting, “You are not alone!” right along with me. Loneliness is a feeling that so many children experience, so I am very grateful for this book. It reminds us all (adults, too) that we are aren’t alone and others are feeling the same emotions as we are. It reminds kids to tell their stories and ensure that their stories are heard. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to ask kids to write their own spreads, similar to a spread they saw in the book. They might share an experience that made them feel alone, and then, at the end, write in big letters, “You are not alone!” They don’t need to share them publicly, but it offers a reflective experience for students that could be meaningful.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which spread impacted you most? Why?
  • When are some moments that you felt alone? (No need to share them aloud.)
  • How do the spreads work together to form a powerful message?

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Love: All Because You Matter by Tami Charles; I Am Enough by Grace Byers; The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig; The Red Tree by Shaun Tan; 

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**Thank you to Sourcebooks for sending a copy for review!**

Wave by Diana Farid, Illustrated by Kris Goto

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Wave
Author: Diana Farid
Illustrator: Kris Goto
Published March 29th, 2022 by Cameron Kids

Summary: A coming-of-age novel in verse set in 1980s Southern California, about a Persian American girl who rides the waves, falls, and finds her way back to the shore.

Thirteen-year-old Ava loves to surf and to sing. Singing and reading Rumi poems settle her mild OCD, and catching waves with her best friend, Phoenix, lets her fit in—her olive skin looks tan, not foreign. But then Ava has to spend the summer before ninth grade volunteering at the hospital, to follow in her single mother’s footsteps to become a doctor. And when Phoenix’s past lymphoma surges back, not even surfing, singing, or poetry can keep them afloat, threatening Ava’s hold on the one place and the one person that make her feel like she belongs. With ocean-like rhythm and lyricism, Wave is about a girl who rides the waves, tumbles, and finds her way back to the shore.

Praise: 

“Processing her feelings through music empowers Ava and gives her a new understanding of home and the connections she shares with others. Raw and powerful, this free verse novel honestly explores issues of identity, culture, grief, and hope… Rich, layered, and heart-rending.”―Kirkus Reviews

“Farid’s poetry rides the page like a wave, charting the ups and downs of Ava’s emotions. . .The verse format makes this text extremely accessible, and readers will be delighted to find elements of Ava’s Persian heritage and 1980s childhood also woven throughout.” ―School Library Journal

“Farid brings her expertise as an MD to Ava’s story, simplifying the complexity of lymphoma while packing an emotional punch with the musical references that Ava uses to cope.” ―Booklist

About the Creators: 

Diana Farid is the author of When You Breathe, published by Cameron Kids. She is a poet and a physician at Stanford University. She lives in the Bay Area.

Honolulu-based fine artist Kris Goto was born in Japan. She spent most of her adolescence in Hong Kong and New Zealand, where she became inspired by the outside world and a passion for manga.

Review: This book is actually hard for me to write about because it is just so beautiful in all the right ways. It is full of so many emotions, beautiful writing, important topics, characterization, and 80s references. The author’s inclusion of such a specific setting and pop culture references could have easily turned off a reader, but Farid seamlessly blends it into Ava’s story to where it is all part of one amazing package. A package that includes a lot but that is because a 14 year old Persian girl growing up in California would have dealt with a lot: identity, self-love vs. loathing, immigrant experience, expectations, friendship, hobbies, school, racism, family… and on top of that Ava has Phoenix’s and (my favorite character) Room 509’s health to think about, her own broken leg, surfing, music, and a single parent. Add to all of this plot poetry that is robust in its rhythm and variety in a way that makes reading the book an experience, a wonderful reading experience.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to all of the reading discussion that can happen with this book, it is also a wonderful poetry writing mentor text. Each poem has its own format, personality, mood, tone, etc. so students have so many choices about which they would want to be inspired by. Goto’s illustrations show how art can add to poems as well, so students could create their own drawings to accompany their poems. Also, with the inclusion of music, students could turn their poems into songs.

Students could also make their own mix tapes for different characters in the book using Ava’s and Phoenix’s as examples. Students could then explain why they chose the songs they did for the characters.

The inclusion of Rumi’s poetry could also lead to a poetry study of his poetry which could include historical instruction as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the author format __[poem]__ the way she did?
  • How did music influence Ava’s time during this point in her life?
  • How do you think Ava’s summer would have been different if she hadn’t broken her leg?
  • How did Phoenix and Ava’s friendship change over time? What caused their friendship to evolve?
  • Why does Ava blow up at Phoenix and Naz at the beach?
  • How does Room 509 play a part in Ava’s summer? What do you think the purpose of this character is?
  • How did Ava’s mother’s decision to leave Iran to go to medical school transform her life?
  • Farid included instances of racism in the book. Why is it important that she includes these? What does it show us about our country?
  • Do you believe Ava has OCD? What parts in the story show you this?
  • How does Ava both embrace her Persian culture but also resent the pressure it holds?
  • The author included Farsi throughout the book. Why is this translanguaging important to include when telling Ava’s story.
  • Find an example of when Farid captured the rhythm of the ocean in her poetry.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar, Starfish by Lisa Fipps, Benbee and the Teacher Griefer by KA Holt, Open Mic edited by Mitali Perkins

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review**

A-Okay by Jarad Greene

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A-Okay
Author: Jarad Greene
Published November 2nd, 2021 by HarperAlley

Summary: A-Okay by Jarad Greene is a vulnerable and heartfelt semi-autobiographical middle grade graphic novel about acne, identity, and finding your place.

When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn’t think much of it at first…except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay’s prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he’s convinced it’ll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!

Meanwhile, school isn’t going exactly as planned. All of Jay’s friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and–to top it off–Jay doesn’t understand why he doesn’t share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him.

Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything’s going to be a-okay…right?

Praise:

A compelling depiction of teenage uncertainty. –Kirkus Reviews

Supported by expressive, well-drawn, and colorful illustrations, this compelling graphic novel will appeal to fans of middle-grade graphic memoirs. Booklist

Greene’s use of color, line, and composition in his comic-panel layouts enhances the humor and angst of this particular slice of adolescent life. -The Horn Book

Jay’s arc is distinct and refreshing, and the story’s emphasis on friendships and body image issues is likely to resonate with any reader who has wished to jump out of their skin. Publishers Weekly

A story about kids learning to feel good about themselves on their own terms is no small thing, and Jay is a low-key, lovely protagonist. Greene’s simple, bubbly color illustrations are friendly and accessible, matching the content perfectly. An earnest exploration of adolescence, recognizable and relevant to middle schoolers coming into their own. -School Library Journal

About the Author: Jarad Greene is a cartoonist originally from Lutz, Florida, who now lives in the curious village of White River Junction, Vermont. In addition to his own comics, Jarad works on staff at the Center for Cartoon Studies and has helped color many graphic novels for younger readers. He is also the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Scullion: A Dishwasher’s Guide to Mistaken Identity. Find him online at www.jaradgreene.com.

Review: My students and I really love middle school memoir (or memoir-esque) graphic novels–I cannot keep them on the shelf, and A-Okay is going to fall right in with that group. What makes a book like this so popular is that it takes something that students need to connect with or that they need to understand and shines a spotlight on a likeable character working their way through the challenge. A-Okay fits this perfectly with Jay’s wonderful character arc as he makes his way through 8th grade figuring out his passions, true friends, and sexual identity; with the focus on Jay’s acne which many middle schoolers deal with but may never have seen in a book; and with the very realistic middle school friendship drama that happens as childhood friends begin to become their own person. This engaging storyline along with Greene’s colorful, detailed, and distinct illustrations will make this a graphic novel I know will never be on my school library’s shelf.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: HarperCollins created a Classroom Conversations page for A-Okay which includes a book talk and five topics with questions for group discussion:

It can also be accessed through the publisher’s A-Okay page. 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Middle school memoirs like Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Guts by Raina Telgemeier, New Kid by Jerry Craft, and The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to SparkPoint Studios and the publisher for providing a copy for review!**