One of Charlie’s final assignments for middle school is finding “her” song for music class. A song that speaks to her soul, and feels like home, as Mr. K encourages the class. As summer approaches though, it’s hard to focus. She notices her classmate Emile more and more. The continued absence of another classmate, Luka, grows bigger and harder to ignore as well. During the opera unit, Charlie discovers the diva Maria Callas, and is deeply moved by her voice. As Charlie digs deeper into Maria’s charmed, yet tragic, life, she not only finds a woman to look up to, but qualities she can emulate. Or try to, anyway. Can it be done? Can modern-day lessons be learned from an opera singer who’s long since passed?

This is a debut graphic novel from writer Kyo Maclear and illustrator Byron Eggenschwiler. It’s in part a slice-of-life middle school story, and part biography of Maria Callas’ life. The story unfolds slowly, with Charlie’s discovery of the diva’s music occurring about halfway through the book, and her ruminations on her classmates, their music tastes, and more, sprinkled in throughout. In addition, there are characters here that are LGBTQ+, which was handled in a no-fuss way. I’d put the reading level at middle-grade to young adult.

The illustrations are beautiful. It’s mostly rendered in a bright gold through deep brown palette, though hues of blue are used for flashbacks, and red for Maria Callas’ life. The style is quirky and whimsical, flowy and dreamlike. It appears to be rendered in pencil and crayon for the most part, and some pastel, which gives it an overall very soft quality. I felt calmed as I read it, just because of the illustrations!

Overall, this was a lovely and soft debut from who is sure to be a winning graphic novel creating duo.

– Kathleen

Maclear, Kyo, and Byron Eggenschwiler. Operatic. 2019.