Mabuhay! | Review
By Zachary Sterling
Scholastic Graphix, October 2023
While brother and sister JJ and Althea don’t agree on much, they definitely agree on this: working their family’s food truck all summer long isn’t their idea of fun. As the school year draws to a close, they’re putting their friends second while helping out their parents. Because family comes first. When their uncle comes for a surprise visit, their ordinary lives begin to unravel. Their parents aren’t telling them, but there is more to their past than meets the eye. They are in danger from some sort of magical being, but JJ and Althea are left in the dark.
The adventure carefully unfolds while JJ and Althea navigate teen life. Both are struggling with friends. JJ is especially trying to “fit in” and not feel so awkward about his Filipino heritage. Neither is aware of their untapped power and the abilities they possess. (This could be a metaphor for their ability to make friends and fit in.)
While this is a magical tale, full of adventure, it’s also a story of family and culture. There aren’t many stories that depict Filipino culture, and readers will get a good long glimpse into it here. The food is described and explained, using both art and words. Stories and mythology are integrated into the adventure, so there is a true sense of what it means to be a Filipino American.
The story also examines the story of a child of immigrants and some of the real struggles that have been told many times over with different people and different origins. Each story is a unique spin, though the theme of straddling the old and the new remains the same.
The artwork and color have a great balance of realism and cartoonism. The shapes, figures, and colors all lend to the authentic culture. The detailed drawing of food and the action-packed panels of magic all balance out to an amazing tale.
Librarians can add this to their book order because it’s a diverse title, but the real reason to pick up the book is because it’s a read that encompasses adventure, coming of age, family, and culture—all the goodness rolled into one!
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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