It is no secret that we love Raina Telgemeier in our house. We own every single one of her books, so of course we had to buy her latest, Guts, as soon as it came out. As usual, I was blown away by Raina's ability to tell a story simply and straight from the heart, taking tough topics and introducing them in such a way as to be completely digestible for the kiddos that most need it.
Guts is the true story of Raina's struggles with a sensitive stomach and anxiety, which began in grade 4 and have continued throughout her life. The book also tackles the shifting landscape of friendships at this age, from friends moving away to the seemingly mysterious formation of new friendship groups. These big topics are handled with humor and sensitivity, from Raina's tummy troubles to her descriptions of what anxiety feels like to having to give oral presentations in front of the class. Guts provides a mirror for kiddos who are struggling with similar issues, allowing them to see that they are not alone and that there is a lot of support out there. It opens the door to conversations about anxiety, counselling and friendships in a gentle, age-appropriate way. As with Raina's other books, this one left me feeling like Raina could have been my friend in middle school; her experiences are unique but universal all at once. As with all of Raina Telgemeier's books, this one is definitely worth the read and deserves a spot on every middle school bookshelf.
Magic, time travel, long lost brothers, evil magicians, good magicians, even a magician who doesn't know he's a magician...the list of intriguing characters and events in The Greatest Magician is long. The story follows young Jack as he reluctantly attends his first magicians' convention. Jack, you see, is not particularly magically inclined, despite having a mother who is known as the Great Linda, a father who is a healer and a sister who can bend others to her will. Once at the magicians' convention, events quickly begin to slide out of control and Jack becomes embroiled in a battle of good versus evil (although he is never quite sure where everyone stands), learning a lot about his family and himself along the way.
I enjoyed this book more than I expected to, as I wasn't initially drawn to the premise. It moves along quickly and the characters are reasonably well-developed for the length of the book. I did find the plot line a bit "noisy", with so many twists and turns that at times it was hard to tell who and what were important details. There wasn't a lot of opportunity to predict coming events or the importance of certain characters or relationships, which might have slowed the storyline down but also given it more depth. As it was, I found that just as the author developed a sense of intrigue around a character she either abandoned that character (often temporarily) or quickly explained their raison d'etre, leaving little space for the reader to follow the tracks and make connections on their own. I would have preferred fewer characters, slightly less action and a little bit of time to draw some conclusions of my own. Nonetheless the book is a good, fast-paced read the will appeal to fans of Rick Riordan and Gordon Korman.
Thank you to Book Sirens for the free advance review copy. All opinions are my own and voluntarily given.
Recommended for Gr 4+.
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