Thursday, October 2, 2014


Raina Telgemeier
Scholastic, 2014  197 pgs
Grades 4-6
Graphic Novel

Telgemeier, known for her graphic novels Smile and Drama offers another autobiographical story from her childhood, this time focusing on the relationship between her and her sister.  fourteen-year-old Raina and nine-year-old Amara are best friends and worst enemies.  They experience life's milestones (addition and deletion of family pets, birth of a brother, dad loosing his job) together, while sharing a room and a love of art.  Mom decides to take the three children on a road trip from their San Francisco home to Colorado for a family reunion, camping along the way and seeing the country.  Naturally, things don't go as planned as the three siblings fight, Raina tunes out everyone and everything with her Walkman, and bad weather strikes.  Throughout the story of the road trip, the plot flashes back to the past and we gradually learn the history of this family.  Once at the family reunion, Raina feels out of sorts when a formally close cousin is more grown-up than she is and they now have nothing in common.  Raina turns to her sister out of sheer desperation and is rejected because of past unreliability.  The book comes to a climax on the way home when the van breaks down, mom and brother leave the girls alone to get help, and they find a former pet snake at large in the van.  They connect through recapturing the snake and being left alone in the desert and the rest of the trip proves to be the family bonding experience that Mom desires.

Telgemeier is a pro at expressing emotion and plot through illustration.  Fans of Smile will be satisfied with her next autobiographical installment of Sisters.  Telgemeier demonstrates the rivalry of siblings and how annoying they can be, while still acknowledging how special the bond is: they are the only people who share the experience of our childhoods.  We feel Raina's awkwardness and frustration as she grows from child to teenager and experience first hand her sudden appreciation of her sister.  The Illustrations are in full color with the past on a darker colored background to differentiate it from the present.  The panels scan well and the book reads quickly and easily.  My only complaint is that sometimes I had a hard time telling Raina apart from Amara, but maybe that was the point.  Sometimes we want to shake Raina for being a brat and sometimes we feel sorry for her, but we always believe her, identify with her and feel like we know her.  For a slightly younger audience than Smile or Drama, Sisters will be enjoyed by both boys and girls, although girls will be more likely to gravitate towards it.  The book ends with Mom admitting that she needed time away from Dad to sort some things out.  We never get closure on what happens with this marriage and that has been bothering me, but that could just be an adult perspective and may not bother young readers.  After all, the story is about Raina and Amara and their relationship is resolved.  All in all, Sisters is a realistic, yet fun, family story in a graphic format that will satisfy fans of Telgemeier and reel her in some new ones.

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