cover image Real Friends

Real Friends

Shannon Hale, illus. by LeUyen Pham. First Second, $12.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-62672-785-4

Hale’s childhood struggles with friends and family come to achingly poignant life in this candid graphic memoir. Over five chapters, readers follow a bookish and shy Hale from her earliest days in school through fifth grade, as she zealously guards her first friendship (“One good friend. My mom says that’s all anyone really needs”), negotiates forever-changing friendship politics, and tries to stay on the good side of her turbulent oldest sister. Hale makes her own flaws evident, and that fairness extends to the bullies in her life, who lash out brutally at times, but whose insecurities and sadness are just as clear. The carefully honed narration and dialogue give Pham plenty of room to work. Her digitally colored ink cartooning pulls substantial emotion out of everyday moments (such as Hale retreating to a playground shrub to cry, only to find another girl already there, doing the same) and the imagination-fueled games Hale was forever devising, presaging her writing career. It’s a wonderfully observed portrait of finding one’s place in your world. Ages 8–12. [em]Author’s agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt. (May) [/em]