There are plenty of teen, tween and children’s books about being the new kid in town because #1: it sucks and #2: it happens anyway. Recently, I read two graphic novels in a row dealing with this theme. It’s funny how that happens, and it certainly wasn’t intentional. Personally, I was lucky enough to live in the same town from the age of 4 to 17 so I never had this experience–which may be why I like getting into these girls’ heads.
Book #1: The Truth About Stacey (The Babysitters Club #2) by Ann M. Martin, adapted by Raina Telgemeier
That’s right, we’re bringing back the classic kids’ books–or at least my new favorite graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier is (find more of her work, web and print, at her website goraina.com). This is technically the third book in the series, but it was the first one of the graphic novel adaptations I read. Supposedly, the text is extremely close or exactly the text of the original books and I believe it. Remember the Babysitters Club phone that they answered at set hours? It was a corded telephone that had a cord long enough to be dragged up to Claudia’s bed. If kids don’t know or remember what that kind of phone looks like, it’s drawn out for them. But aside from the “historical illustrations” of lovely corded phones, do these books hold up? I mean, judging from the amount of kids checking them out from my library, the answer is yes. From my perspective, it’s harder to tell since I remember reading these books and corded phones and writing in notebooks, as all members of The Babysitters Club do about their babysitting jobs (now they’d probably blog, right?).
The themes are classic. A group of girls who are friends who struggle to get along with each other and other girls. Don’t get me wrong, these are very sweet books for the most part. But this one, for instance, tackles Stacey’s Type I Diabetes, something she has struggled with–especially in regards to telling her friends. She’s young and it makes her different so her reluctance to tell is believable. Personally, I loved the way the graphics illustrated some of Stacey’s meals, paying attention to the facts about her food she had to pay attention to. I think there’s no better way to revive The Babysitters Club than through these fabulous graphic novels.
Book #2: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
The new girl is older now–she’s in high school and her name, as you might have guessed, is Jane. She’s moved away from the big city to a small town because her overprotective parents got scared after Jane was injured by a terrorist bombing. She wasn’t badly injured, though she was next to an unnamed man who wound up in a coma. She visited him in the hospital and wound up taking and completing his sketchbook, which inspires her project in her new town. Somehow, she manages to befriend a group of girls all named Jane, or something close. Inspired by our MainJane, using the talents of the rest of the group, they embark on some art “terrorism” which they call P.L.A.I.N.–People Loving Art in Neighborhoods. Of course, the graphic format is perfect. We get to see the crazy fun stuff they do. My personal favorite is when they outfit the fire hydrants with knit winter hats. Everything is gravy, until the town goes crazy with fear because of the “terrorism” being perpetrated by these artists.
There is a lot of story going on in this graphic novel and I loved that. Castellucci packs it in, adding all the emotional bits that I love about stories and that, to be frank, most (teen) girls love about stories. Sometimes I think that can get lost in graphic novels (not that it always does, mind you). The Plain Janes have that group make up where each girl is different–one’s brainy, one’s artsy, etc.–but here, it works because they need that to get their art out there into the world. There is a sequel to this book, Janes in Love, and I intend to read it and find out just what happens to the P.L.A.I.N girls who have finally carved out a place for themselves in their small town.
Bottom line: I’m learning to be a better graphic novel reader and to appreciate them more. These are two graphic novels that are worth appreciating (though you might want to skip the first if you’re older than 13 and don’t absolutely love kids books).