Match Point! by Maddie Gallegos First Second, September 2023
In this debut middle-grade graphic novel by Maddie Gallegos is about two girls: one who hates racquetball and another who loves it. Rosie Vo is at odds with her dad. He pushes his racquetball hobby to the point that she dreads ever spending time with him. Thankfully, new kid Blair moves to town and becomes fast friends with Rosie. She’s cool, a great listener, and even better, the best distraction from the tension Rosie feels at home. Rosie’s convinced Blair is the answer to all her dad-problems. If only Blair could be the racquetball genius Rosie’s dad has always wanted! But Blair disagrees, hoping to show her that with a friend by her side, Rosie can face both her dad and racquetball.
Saving Sunshine by Saadia Faruqi; illustrated by Shazleen Khan First Second, September 2023
In Saving Sunshine, written by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Shazleen Khan, it’s hard enough for twins Zara and Zeeshan to get through a day without being teased for a funny-sounding name or wearing a hijab, but the two really can’t even stand each other. During a family trip to Florida, when the bickering, shoving, and insults reach new heights of chaos, their parents sentence them to the worst possible fate—each other’s company! But when the siblings find an ailing turtle, it presents a rare opportunity for teamwork—if the two can put their differences aside at last.
Saving Sunshine, written by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Shazleen Khan, examines the complexity of familial and cultural identities in relationship to the various roles of each character. While the story is premised on saving a loggerhead turtle nicknamed “Sunshine,” that act seems secondary to everything else going on here. Pre-teen/teen twins Zara and Zeeshan Aziz are at that age where they constantly annoy one another, and parents Bilal and Rasheeda, both doctors, have hit their limits with the bickering. On a conference trip where Dr. Rasheeda is being recognized for her work in pediatrics, the twins have their phones taken away as punishment and must not separate when their parents are off conferencing. Pure torture! But the youths find activities to occupy themselves, ways to tolerate one another, and in the end, support and encourage one another’s interests. Layers are added to the story with flashbacks, represented in sepia-toned imagery, filling in details that help explain why the characters behave the way they do, and peeling back judgments even the reader may have made before fully understanding the whole picture. This work offers a treasure trove of topics for discussion with an overarching message of the difficult but important act of standing up and standing firm – both for oneself as well as for others.
Saving Sunshine written by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Shazleen Khan. First Second, July 2023.
Reviewer bio: Denise Hill is Editor of NewPages.com and reviews books she chooses based on her own personal interests.
Layers: A Memoir by Pénélope Bagieu; translated by Montana Kane First Second, October 2023
When Pénélope Bagieu dusted off her old diaries, she found layer upon layer of cringe-worthy, hilarious, and heartbreaking stories begging to be drawn. (Yes, seriously – this book is based on her actual diaries.) While she never thought she’d published a graphic memoir, Bagieu reflects on her childhood and teen years with her characteristic wit and unflinching honesty. The result is fifteen short stories about friendship, love, grief, and those awkward first steps toward adulthood.