Graphic Novel Review: Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

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31145178A wonderful graphic autobiography for middle-grade readers by one of my favourite contemporary authors. Shannon Hale focuses on her early experiences making friends… from the ease of friendship as a pre-schooler, to the complicated social pecking order of grade school.

Shannon’s mother is convinced that everything will be all right if she just has 1 special friend. This friend is Adrienne. But as they grow older, Adrienne becomes friends with the popular “the group” and as they move from grade-to-grade Shannon must now traverse the treacherous landmines of what being associated with “the group” means.

This story deals with mental health (particularly anxiety), bullying, friendship, and even religion. But mostly, it is a common tale of growing up and making friends. I basically found myself nodding my head to just about every scenario… especially the sibling relationships.

The situations feel real to someone who had a relatively boring/happy childhood; they are so reminiscent to my own childhood it’s not even funny. It doesn’t feel preachy or didactic in any way. At least it didn’t feel that way to me. And, I loved the slightly ambiguous ending, a proper depiction of how someone “would” act in a situation, rather than how they “should” act.

LeUyen Pham’s art is bright, and youthful – and serves the story well. The storytelling is grounded in reality, but also fluid enough that you could easily forget this is a biography (if you wanted to).

I highly recommend this story to any child — and better yet, reading this with your child!

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