Four Eyes | Review
By Rex Ogle & Dave Valeza
May 2023, Scholastic Graphix, $12.99
I had a really hard time relating to this endearing graphic novel about Rex Ogle’s middle school experience, which included getting glasses for the first time. My whole family wears glasses. In my son’s eighth-grade class picture, 75% of the class was wearing glasses. The idea of children taunting a child for wearing glasses seems to be right out of Little House on the Prairie, not a story set in the early 1990s. But despite this little hitch, I could not help loving the story—probably because this was about a lot more than being teased for glasses!
This story is based on Rex’s childhood and told from his point of view. He’s starting middle school with an optimistic attitude, but his idealistic and excited attitude is quickly crushed. The district lines were redrawn, so there are more new faces than old faces. His best friend Drew is hanging out with Victor, one of the popular boys, who’s not very nice.
Then Rex begins to show signs of vision change and his mother takes him for an eye exam. There they are faced with the high cost of glasses. It highlights the family’s poverty and the strife with Rex’s biological father who resents sending support for his son.
As Rex distances himself from Victor, Drew, and the mean crowd, he begins to make new friends. But he is teased and taunted about his glasses and his insecurities mount, which alienates his new friends.
Graphic novels with a middle school setting are not unique, but there are only a handful with male protagonists. While bullying and friendship aren’t new storylines, the different twists will draw in an audience. Rex and his family dynamic, especially the family’s financial strain, also give the story a different spin, so it’s not just another middle school story.
The characters are well written and drawn so they are extremely likable—even the mean caricature of Victor. Rex’s mom is a superwoman – not perfect – but very realistic. And quiet Sam, Rex’s stepdad, is also a character to appreciate. It would be lovely to read another installment that focuses more on Rex’s family than on the school dynamic.
The artwork is spunky and colorful, bringing Rex and his lively and sensitive personality to life. The detailed drawings give a sense of time and place. This is a solid middle-grade title that will be enjoyed by a variety of readers.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at William E. Grady CTE HS in Brooklyn, NY. In addition, she 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. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics and worked in the same middle school library for 20 years.
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