More graphic novels to talk about, this time, real-life stories. Some are realistic fiction, some are inspired by moments in the author’s life. All are great reading!
An inclusive, illustrated guide to getting your period from a award-winning podcaster and writer and a celebrated doctor whose medical column ran for more than two decades in a popular teen magazine? Yes, please! Welcome To Your Period!, by Yumi Stynes and Dr. Melissa Kang, is a straight-talk, friend-to-friend, guide to navigating your period and all the weird, messy, moody, and snacky feelings it brings. It’s loaded with case studies and first-person accounts, with a folx from a variety of ages chiming in on their experiences. Topics covered include packing a period pack (let’s hear it for emergency chocolate!), how to deal with cramps, different choices in supplies, how to tackle period challenges like school, sports, and sleepovers, and how to support your friends! I love that the authors talk about throwing first-period parties for friends and the importance of sharing. It’s a really stressful moment when you look in that go-bag and realize there’s nothing there, but a perfect stranger that’s willing to help you out can go a long way. The illustrations are fun, positive, and inclusive, as is the language used throughout the book. Medical illustrations provide a road map to our bodies, and the authors encourage us to take a look down there for ourselves and get to know what’s what. There are points on menstrual equity, what to do when you aren’t able to talk to your parents, and advocating for yourself. Have a teacher who doesn’t want to let you get up to go to the bathroom? You assert yourself and tell them you need to go and why! There’s nothing to be embarrassed about here, and that’s the main point the authors and illustrator communicate here. This is a natural, normal part of nature, and nothing to be hidden away and ashamed of. Non-binary and transgender teens will find support here, too; the authors address how frightening and stressful puberty can be, and the importance of finding both a doctor and an adult you can trust and talk to regarding period options. A glossary provides helpful terms to “expand your period vocabulary” and a list of resources gives teens social media accounts, podcasts, apps, advocacy, phone numbers to have handy for reference. Display this with graphic novel hit Go With the Flow and support your tweens and teens. If you have the budget and are in an area in need, have some period packs available so your teens can come to you: you can be that trusted adult.
Published in Australia in 2018, Welcome to Your Period arrives on US shelves this month.
Haylah Swinton is an English teen who’s not like the other girls. She’s a curvy girl and she knows it – she adopted the nickname “Pig” so the bullies would have nothing to hold against her – and she loves comedy. From Tina Fey to Caitlin Moran and beyond, she’s watched them all and would love nothing more than to have her name among theirs one day. For now, though, she’s helping her single mom raise her four-year-old brother, Noah, hanging out with her besties, Chloe and Kas, until Leo Jackson enters the picture. He’s good-looking, has a killer smile, and does a stand-up routine during a school assembly that leaves Haylah gobsmacked! Finally having someone to talk comedy with, she secretly sneaks jokes she’s written into Leo’s locker, and is thrilled when he incorporates them into his routine at his dad’s club. The two start spending time together when Leo asks for her help writing material for him to perform at an upcoming youth comedy contest in London, and Haylah’s crush goes stratospheric, but her friends wonder if he really likes her for who she is, or for what she can do for him: write the jokes that will put him in the spotlight?
Pretty Funny for a Girl is all about feminism, the funny, and the heartbreak of a first crush. Haylah is a brilliantly written character who owns who she is, even while struggling with body image, friendships, and family. She knows she’s curvy, and by calling herself “fat” and taking on cruel nicknames like “Pig” before anyone else can level them at her, she’s internalizing a lot of pain that she’ll need to deal with – but she’ll be darned if anyone else gets to her more than she gets to herself. A body-positive teen who wishes everyone else would get over it, she doesn’t want to change who she is at heart, and knows she has a lot to offer, whether it’s on the comedy stage or in a relationship (friend or romantic).
If you loved Dumplin‘, you’ll love Pretty Funny for a Girl. Put this in your YA collections and check out Book Riot’s list of body positive YA novels for more ideas. Publisher Peachtree has a free, downloadable discussion guide and excerpt available.
Cookie Vonn is an aspiring clothing designer who knows a heck of a lot about fashion and textiles. She also wants fashion that makes everyone feel good, including the plus-size curvy girls and women that seem to be left out of major clothing designers’ lines. You see, Cookie used to be one of those girls, until one slight too many – the title should give you the clue – sends her to NutriNation, a Weight Watchers-type program where she loses the weight, but gains even more baggage. Her parents – a renowned supermodel and a surgeon – leave a lot to be desired. Her supermodel mother left her to be raised by her grandmother, and if you think she’s throwing cash her way to give her daughter and mother a lavish lifestyle, you’d be wrong. Her heartbroken father ran away to Africa once her mother dumped him, and he’s nothing more than an occasional phone call to Cookie. Needless to say, Cookie knows she’s got one person to rely on: herself.
When things start happening for Cookie, including a relationship and internship with an older famous designer, she wonders whether she’s becoming just like her mother: Gareth Miller seems to want to run their relationship and her life. She struggles with staying true to herself while becoming part of the New York fashion set, and discovers that her bright future has attracted her mother’s – and sleazy stepfather’s – attentions.
This book just draws you right in. Written in Cookie’s voice, the story takes place in two alternating timelines: right before and through her NutriNation journey, and the “present”, some two years into her weight loss. Pre-NutriNation, we see how 300-lb-plus Cookie’s treated; obviously a radical difference from how size 6 Cookie moves through life. She strives to make accessible fashion for everyone, no matter what size, and discovers the fashion industry’s dirty little secrets on the way. In the end, she almost loses herself, but is grounded by her friends and family back home in Arizona. There were some high points: I loved that she could move on without caving in and embracing the people who treated her so awfully. (It’s a relief to not scream at a book when a protagonist kisses and makes up with her or his tormentors!) It’s a very smooth read that held my interest all the way through, with characters that are realistic: not all wonderful and light, not all mustache-twirling villain. Pair this with Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ for two great books about curvy heroines this summer.
Recommended for ages 8-12
Misty Copeland is amazing. The first African-American principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre didn’t start ballet until her early teens and has faced poverty, racism, criticism, and injury to do what she loves. In this young readers edition of her autobiography, she tells readers about the trials and triumphs she’s lived, the hard work she’s put in, and the sacrifices she’s made to get where she is in the dance world. We read about the custody battle between her mother and ballet teacher when she was 15; the rampant racism she’s endured, and she holds up to the light the eating issues that run rampant in the ballet community. We also read about amazing achievements, like her dancing on tour with Prince and her joy at meeting the dancers that inspired her the way she inspires a new generation of children.
Misty does not shy away from diversity here: she embraces it, giving us the names of the African-American dancers that went before her. She also doesn’t hide the fact that she’s taken some heat for being “too mainstream”; that bringing ballet to the masses is looked down upon – thankfully, that’s something she disagrees with. Ballet and dance, the arts, are for all – if she can inspire another kid to put on a pair of toe shoes, or sign up for hip hop classes because it’s something they love, she’s done right. Copeland is all about embracing your passion. Her confidence and gratitude come through in equal measure, and she dispenses advice for living and building one’s self-esteem throughout the book. Embrace your strengths and never give up – these are the lessons that kids will come away with after spending some time with Misty Copeland.
There are photos in the finished book (I’ve got an egalley), and more on her home page. You can also find her on the American Ballet Theatre page, which also has a section on education and training for readers interested in learning more. Display and booktalk this with Copeland’s picture book (illustrated by Christopher Myers), Firebird.
This book is a must-add to biography collections. Booktalk and display this if, like me, you’ve got kids that need to see someone smashing stereotypes and making it to the top of her (or his) game. If you have dancers in your home or your life, give this book to them and let them watch this ABC Sunday Spotlight from 2014.