A young, laudable voice tells an indelible story of acceptance and prejudice.

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THE MASK

A boy ridiculed for his deformities may find the price of beauty is too high in this posthumous graphic novel.

Mil lives alone in the forest; his parents abandoned him. Because of his misshapen face and body, villagers deride and even threaten the boy. He scrapes by selling his wooden sculptures, though most people steer clear of him. While walking through the woods, Mil finds a mask. It speaks to him and promises to make him handsome—the object of men’s envy and women’s gazes. All Mil must do in return is “perform a service” for the Mask someday. Though hesitant, he agrees, and the Mask fuses with his face and changes his appearance. Now people find Mil attractive and revel in his company. He opens up his own shop and falls in love. Then the day finally arrives when the Mask makes its demand, asking Mil to do something unimaginable. He must decide if he can live the life he wants with the deformed body he once had. This story, written when Adams was 16, is a remarkable allegory with a superb open ending. The pale white Mask boasts a physical beauty society seemingly craves, while its “soulless eyes” reveal an emotional deficiency. It’s easy to sympathize with the sensitive Mil; people dub him “the freak” or “the monster.” But he’s likable throughout; he falls for a woman who’s more interested in his sculptures than his looks. At the same time, the Mask is suitably menacing; its more human qualities prove the most sinister, like its “sly smirk.” Complementing Adams’ prose, Eason renders an expressive, sometimes maniacal-looking Mask, which understandably troubles Mil. Muted colors give the illustrations a deeper, subtle allure, like Mil himself. A loving tribute at the book’s end comes courtesy of Adams’ family.

A young, laudable voice tells an indelible story of acceptance and prejudice.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-56993-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: CJ Sparrow Publication

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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