Last Friday, I skipped writing a book review and instead wrote the definitive answer to who is the best cinematic Chris (Chris Pine of course), so this week my reading public has the pleasure of two book reviews from me!
As a teen librarian, I am in charge of leading two graphic novel book clubs- one for middle school youth, and the other for high school and early college teens. This month we read Drama by Raina Telgemeier, who is a favorite of the middle school set, and this particular story was requested after we read Ghosts a few months back. As coincidence would have it, the 2017 Top 10 Challenged Book list came out the week before we read it, and Drama is on it again!
This graphic novel centers on free-spirit Callie, a seventh grade girl who loves the theatre. When her school decides to put on a production of the musical Moon Over Mississippi she gets involved in the stage crew, as her talents are in set design, not singing. Many of her friends are involved in the show, so she enjoys the months of preparation, and she sets her heart on replicating a canon that can be used in a pivotal scene. But throughout the time leading to the musical, there is drama both onstage and offstage, with both friendships and fledging relationships. While there are some hiccups during the show, it is a success and Callie and her friends work out their issues and are ready with ideas for next year’s show. This charming book is an ode to friendship and being accepting of others.
So what exactly is so controversial in this boldly colored book that it is on the Top 10 list again, considering it was nominated for a Harvey Award and was a Stonewall Honor Book? Well, Callie meets twin brothers who get involved in the musical, and one is gay and the other is questioning. While their level of coming out to the other students is part of the narrative, this tween-friendly book is very accepting of their identity. The website Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) has a great article about the debate. Author Telgemeier said “that while she and her editors at Scholastic were very careful to make the book age-appropriate, they never considered omitting the gay characters because ‘finding your identity, whether gay or straight, is a huge part of middle school‘.” Hell yeah it is!
I’m proud to work at a library that does not censor. In fact our little rural library has all ten books found on the 2017 list. As I handle the social media for our library, I took a picture of all ten books and wrote up a blurb about it and put it on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Drama is a great graphic novel, and the youth here love it, and it will remain on our shelves.