Elevates the graphic novel genre with its heartfelt focus on mental health and immigrant experiences.

LIVING WITH VIOLA

Do you have a voice in your head telling you to doubt your self-worth?

Enter Chinese Canadian Olivia Siu Leen Tong. She loves art, books, and making dumplings with her mom, but she struggles with being carefree and happy like her peers. Even harder, her parents enroll her in a new, better middle school, where she struggles to make friends. As immigrants from Hong Kong, her parents have sacrificed so much to give her opportunities, but with this come high expectations to be the perfect daughter. All the pressure causes her self-doubt to manifest as Viola, a shadowy version of herself. Viola spews insidious, undermining messages, causing Livy to fall into depression and have panic attacks. Although she finally makes some good friends and even starts enjoying school, Viola lurks in the back of Livy’s mind and sabotages her at every turn. As her life starts unraveling, she must decide whether to reveal her secrets and ask for help. In a debut inspired by her own life, Fung uses bold illustrations in warm shades of red and orange; whenever Viola appears, the palette darkens to purples and grays as swirling, negative thought bubbles overwhelm Livy like waves. Fung delicately balances the heavy subject matter of mental health issues, microaggressions, identity, cultural differences, and belonging with humor and heart.

Elevates the graphic novel genre with its heartfelt focus on mental health and immigrant experiences. (author’s note, Cantonese glossary, character sketches) (Graphic fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77321-548-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Japanese-American Aki and her family operate an asparagus farm in Westminster, Calif., until they are summarily uprooted and...

SYLVIA & AKI

Two third-grade girls in California suffer the dehumanizing effects of racial segregation after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1942 in this moving story based on true events in the lives of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu.

Japanese-American Aki and her family operate an asparagus farm in Westminster, Calif., until they are summarily uprooted and dispatched to an internment camp in Poston, Ariz., for the duration of World War II. As Aki endures the humiliation and deprivation of the hot, cramped barracks, she wonders if there’s “something wrong with being Japanese.” Sylvia’s Mexican-American family leases the Munemitsu farm. She expects to attend the local school but faces disappointment when authorities assign her to a separate, second-rate school for Mexican kids. In response, Sylvia’s father brings a legal action against the school district arguing against segregation in what eventually becomes a successful landmark case. Their lives intersect after Sylvia finds Aki’s doll, meets her in Poston and sends her letters. Working with material from interviews, Conkling alternates between Aki and Sylvia’s stories, telling them in the third person from the war’s start in 1942 through its end in 1945, with an epilogue updating Sylvia’s story to 1955.

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-337-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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