This afternoon, a sixth grader came into the library and spotted a poster that was drawn by Raina Telgemeier for Scholastic’s Read Every Day Lead a Better Life Campaign. “Do you have it?” she asked breathlessly? “Do you have it?”
“What?” I asked.
“My favorite book in the whole world,” she answered breathlessly. (I promise! True story!)
Unfortunately, all my copies were checked out. But I kept thinking if only I had done my book order already, I know she’ll fall equally in love with Drama, Telgemeier’s latest release.
By Raina Telgemeier color by Gurihiru
ISBN 9780545326988 HC $23.99 ISBN 9780545326995 PBK $10.99
©September 2012, 240 pp.
If you read reviews on Raina Telgemeier’s previous graphic novel, Smile, you’ll see words like “charming” and “sweet.” Her second attempt at capturing the middle school years is no less successful, and Telgemeier sticks with what she’s good at, capturing the middle school years. Let me tell you, Telgemeier hits the drama and to-do of those tumultuous years right on the head of the nail.
Callie fell in love with the theater when her mother took her to a production of Les Miserables. But she quickly learned that she didn’t have what it takes to be onstage, so instead Callie is more than content with being part of the crew backstage. When her middle school puts on a musical, Callie is thrilled to be in charge of set design, but the drama on stage quickly spills offstage. There are twin brothers, boys who like Callie, and boys Callie likes. There’s best-friend drama, and of course, putting on a full-scale musical production (even in middle school) is full of commotion.
The middle school I work in has put on a number of musicals, and Telgemeier really captures the frenetic pace of putting on a production. (In reality, at this age, teachers are a bit more involved in the process, but I chalked that up to poetic license.) There’s excitement and passion. The kids feel great about everything that they accomplished. There are friends’ politics. Reading Drama, I felt like I was standing in the corridors of my own school.
And today’s issues aren’t ignored, though they’re not actually issues in the book, such as characters coming to terms with their sexual identity.
The comic only strengthens when you consider the artwork. Telgemeier already has a signature style, a look that marks the artwork as her own, but there were a couple of scenes that truly shine. When Callie shows Jesse her favorite theater books, the scenes are full of passion as Callie is drawn into a giant book, showing Jesse why the books are so magnificent. It moves the artwork from a level of cute and sweet to truly outstanding.
This is going to be on every upper elementary school, middle school, and even high school shelf. Readers, especially young female ones, will eat up the title.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Scholastic.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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