May 08, 2017

Monday Review: REAL FRIENDS by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Synopsis: Shannon Hale is amazing. Just look at the range of YA and MG fantasy she's written, how awesome they all are, how beloved she is. And LeUyen Pham has long been one of our favorite illustrators here at Finding Wonderland. Now they've teamed up (SQUEE) on a heartfelt, hopeful middle-grade graphic novel that also happens to be a memoir of the author's tribulations with sisters and friends throughout elementary school.

Observations: Though some names and identifying details have been changed, at its heart this is still a story about Shannon herself as a girl. Imaginative, anxious, and eager to please, she finds that friendship is a bit more difficult to navigate than it had first appeared: friends move; friends change and grow apart; and sometimes friends become frenemies.

Unfortunately, sometimes bullies aren't only limited to school. This graphic novel tackles the difficult but important topic of bullying by older siblings. Shannon, as the middle sister of five siblings, struggles with finding her place at home as well as school. In the end, though it's not an easy or quick process, she discovers that it is possible to find true friends—and even repair broken relationships that once seemed hopeless. Change, after all, can be for the better.

This story handles tough situations like childhood anxiety and bullying with the gentle touch of someone who is no stranger to these challenges that many children face on a daily basis—but with a minimum of anger and blame. Not that Shannon-the-girl didn't get mad, or sad, or lay blame; but, from a later, wiser perspective, the story shows that patience and self-acceptance and kindness do bear fruit. And, as always, the artwork from LeUyen Pham strikes a perfect tone of charm, humor, and relatability, working seamlessly with the text to tell the story.

Conclusion: This book came out on May 2; this review is based on an advance reader's edition received from the publisher. Any kid who is struggling with friendship and finding their place in the world—and isn't that most kids?—will find a lot to recognize in this story, and hopefully will also find a lot of reasons to take heart, too.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher, First Second. You can find REAL FRIENDS by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!


Jen Robinson said...

My daughter (first grade) adored this book. She's now reading it aloud to me, and I adore it, too. I am positive that if young Shannon and I had somehow magically been at the same school in the same grade, we would have been friends. Thanks for spreading the word about the book.

Sarah Stevenson said...

I'm so glad she enjoyed it! She's such a good reader. :) It really is a wonderful book and makes me wish I'd been in school with Shannon, too.