I’m not a twin, but I feel like I know something about twins. My mom was a twin. She and her sister were extremely close until their deaths just 5 months apart. My mom’s twin had a set of twins. There are a set of twin cousins on my dad’s side. So, like I said, I know twins without being a twin.
Twins (Twins #1)
By Varian Johnson & Shannon Wright
Grades 3 and up
Reading Varian Johnson’s story about sisters Francine and Maureen who are starting middle school really gives readers a sense of twins’ bond. And if you read the author’s bio at the end of the book, you find out he is a twin. So, I don’t know twins like he does, but he captures so much of what I know. Twins love each other fiercely, but they also want to be separate beings.
For the first time ever, Francine and Maureen will not have all the same classes. Francine has always been the more confident one. Maureen has always been the one to excel academically. But they shared friends, a room, and a cool older brother. Maureen is shocked to find out that Francine is the one who requested that they be in separate classes, and that her parents asked that she join the Cadet Core to build her self-confidence.
Maureen isn’t excelling in Cadet Core. She isn’t a very good marcher and is in danger of getting her first B ever. Her instructor suggests running for student council for extra credit. And Maureen does. She decides to run for Student Council President against her sister. Lots of drama unfolds as the election gets heated. But Maureen and Francine’s relationships grows stronger. Nothing can rock the bond between sisters, especially twin sisters.
In the age of “We need diverse Literature,” this title is a wonderful addition. This is simply a happy story (with ups and downs) about two sisters. They just happen to be African American, but the themes are universal.
Newberry Award Winning author Jerry Craft has said he just wants to see African American children represented in literature without something terrible happening. Of course, something must happen to move a plot along, but if I understood him correctly, he meant he didn’t want African American children to be always dealing with gangs and crime in their stories. This book supports his message.
The artwork is essential in this story. The nuances of the family’s life are told through the artwork, not in the narration. How the family interacts at dinner. (They all sit together! That’s only been a daily occurrence in my family since we quarantined for Covid-19.) The way the family cooks together is again part of the artwork, not the narration. The happiness of the moments (in the midst of the drama), gives much warmth to the story. The illustrations are vibrant and expressive. The colors will appeal to middle school readers who often prefer colored artwork (unless they read manga).
Overall, this will be a well-received title. Young readers will flock to the story. Even if they aren’t a twin or they don’t know any twins, there are so many themes that children can identify with, like family, friendship, and building self-confidence, which are central to the lives of middle schoolers. I don’t know what my budget will look like in September. I don’t know what school will look like, but I look forward to adding this title to my shelves. I’ll need to buy more than one.
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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