The Year of the Buttered Cat (A Mostly True Story), by Susan Haas and Lexi Haas, (April 2021, Penelope Editions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781734225938
What a book! This mostly-true memoir of Lexi Haas, a Star Wars and superhero-loving teen, shines a light on a rare – and preventable – neurological disease called kernicterus. Written by Lexi and her mother, Susan Haas, The Year of the Buttered Cat moves between Lexi at ages five and six, when she learns about her diagnosis and waits for the “five gifts, more or less” that an ersatz preacher wishes for her, and the age of 13, on the eve of a major surgery that she, and her family, hope will give her more control over her body and give her a voice. Not a story about kernicterus, Lexi’s story is a story about fandom, friendship, and discovering that the gifts you need are to be discovered within. We read Lexi’s frustrations and her ups and downs – feeling left out by friends; having strangers ask “what’s wrong with her?”; knowing her parents are keeping secrets – and see our own. We read her joyful moments – her laughter, teasing and being teased by siblings, watching Saturday Night Live with her parents, cuddling with her dog – and smile and laugh along with her. Do we find out why the cat was buttered? Yes. Do we want to find Lexi and the next Comic Con and hang out in cosplay with her? Definitely. Lexi’s voice is strong, clear, and focused, whether she’s making us laugh or suggesting we stop, take a moment, and think.
Give this to your readers who loved Wonder, Mustaches for Maddie, and Roll With It, A great add to your social-emotional learning shelves.
Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier, (Aug. 2014, Scholastic Graphix). $10.99, ISBN: 9780545540605
Recommended for ages 10+
A companion to her Eisner Award-winning graphic novel, Smile, Sisters examines Raina Telgemeier’s relationship with her sister, Amara. The autobiographical novel takes place mainly during a road trip to visit her mother’s family that Telgemeier took when she was 14, with flashbacks that spotlight key points in Raina and Amara’s relationship, leading up to the road trip.
Sisters is about relationships, and emotions that come into play in those relationships. The primary relationship is the one between Raina and Amara, but there are other important relationships here – relationships that, for the purposes of this book, orbit Raina and Amara, but will strike a chord with any reader – the relationship between the sisters and their younger brother, Will; their relationship between their parents; the relationships between their mother and her siblings (and how it mirrors theirs) and the relationship between Raina and her cousins.
Sisters examines family tension on many levels – it’s not a dark novel, but it does inject realism and humor into situations many of us know all too well, and Ms. Telgemeier’s soft cartoon art is like comfort food for my psyche.
Smile still continues to be one of the most popular graphic novels in my library. I’m positive that Sisters will join it.