Review of “Real Friends,” by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

“Real Friends,” by Shannon Hale (Author) and LeUyen Pham (Illustrator). 224 Pages, First Second, May 2017. Paperback, $12.99. Ages 8-12.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find or order all of the books I review at the store.

 

Anti-bullying campaigns are so prevalent these days that, if you don’t have school-age kids yourself, you might think bullying in schools must have been successfully overcome. But we’re human animals after all, and as evidenced by some of our current political figures, there are some really mean people in the world. Thank goodness for books like “Real Friends,” which don’t shy away from the realities of mean people, but help young readers—not to mention adults—put them into perspective.

Shannon Hale has written and co-written more than twenty books and graphic novels—mostly for kids, although the adult series “Austenland” has been successful as well. “Real Friends” is Hale’s first graphic memoir, as having a protagonist named Shannon might suggest. “I changed all the names except my own, Hale told Entertainment Weekly, “because 30-year-old memories and my own flawed perception of events could never do justice to anybody else’s reality.”

We first meet this younger version of Shannon in the late 1970s, when she is on the verge of starting kindergarten, and terrified that she won’t make any friends. That first day of school turns out much better than expected: she almost instantly finds Adrienne, her new best friend. When Adrienne abruptly leaves town, however, Shannon begins her very bumpy road to finding and keeping the “one good friend” that she overhears her mother saying she needs.

Most reviews of this book gush about the way it unflinchingly represents the trials of elementary school’s unique version of mean. To the book’s credit, the character Shannon is shown committing her own fair share of mistakes and small meannesses, too. For the most part, however, we see Shannon suffering the all-too-relatable (for most of us) likes of this,

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“Ghost Stories,” by Whit Taylor

Ghost Stories, by Whit Taylor. 120 pages, Rosarium Press, January 2018. Paperback, $17.95.

Rosarium Press provided me with a free online review copy of this book. Thanks also to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find or order all of the books I review at the store.

NOTE: You can hear Bill Campbell, head of Rosarium Press, speak on Tuesday, March 13 at 7:30 in Rieth Recital Hall on the Goshen College campus. His talk is called “Social Justice in Publishing.” Click here for more information.

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“March: Book Three,” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

192 pages, Top Shelf Productions, Aug. 2016. Paperback, $19.99, 8th grade and up.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find all of these books at the store.

U.S. Representative John Lewis, who narrates the conclusion of his civil rights journey in March: Book Three, has been arrested at least 45 times, most recently in a 2013 rally for immigration rights. As one of the founders of the Civil Rights Movement and the last surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington—which culminated in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech—Lewis remains an advocate for getting in trouble. He calls this type of trouble “necessary trouble,” imperative when something in society is “not right, not fair, not just.” Continue reading ““March: Book Three,” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell”