The Prince and the Dressmaker
by Jen Wang
So... a prince who likes to wear dresses and the seamstress/designer that helps him. There are all kinds of discussions about gender expression, class, the patriarchy, and individuality to mine here but what really stands out for me is the wholesomeness of this book. There is so much heart here. Sebastian and Frances support on another so beautifully and it is a joy to watch them bring out the best in one another. The relationships, the love, the plot it all comes together to make for something special that I wanted both to hug close to my chest and insist that everyone that I meet read immediately. Squee.
by Whitney Gardner
This a very cute book. It is aimed at Middle Schoolers so the plot is very much driven by friendships and fitting in. You might not think that a book about a boy pretending to be a vampire to impress a girl would be relatable to anyone who has ever been in the sith grade, but this book manages that feat beautifully. The art adds to the story, and the small and large visual jokes make it a joy to read as an adult. Come for AJ figuring out how to fit in but stay for the gender-flipped Harry Potter someone is reading. Much adorable.
Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir
by Colleen Frakes
This is a much quieter story than I expected. Colleen Frakes grew up on the last Prison Island in the country. I guess I expected it to be a dark and bleak tale of prison. There is a wonderful line in the book after her mother notices her listening to a conversation about a prisoner about how everyone deserves some privacy even if they are in prison that I found very touching especially considering that the woman was a prison guard. But seeing as how it is a memoir and not a novel I guess that is understandable. Real life is generally less dramatic than we think and children, of course, wouldn't have been exposed to the prison. Without that drama what you are left with is the so of an everykid tale of growing up.
by Svetlana Chmakova
I spend all of my working life with middle schoolers, and I can safely say that Svetlana Chmakova knows them, respects them, and has a great deal of affection for them. As someone who subscribed to the "done get noticed" rule of middle school I very much related. Peppi is such a great main character. The events of the book are set off by her doing something pretty mean, but the way she takes responsibility for making up for that is noticeable and impressive. Jaime is a soft squishy cinnamon roll of an introvert, and I loved him. The diversity of the cast of characters in this book is beautiful, and argh, I want MOAR.
by Svetlana Chmakova
Brave is a connected book to Awkward although it stands on it own very well. The themes of doing the right thing even when it goes against the crowd are well handled and not preachy. Middle Grade students will easily connect with the characters and find the writing and art entertaining and hilarious. I particularlly love how Jensen's inner life is portrayed. Confession time: Jensen is so close to middle school me (except he is much louder) that I found this book almost physically uncomfortable to read. There is a third book coming out soon and I am super excited for it.