Thursday, January 24, 2013
Peanut, written by Ayun Halliday aand illustrated by Paul Hoppe. schwartz & wade, Random House. 2013. $17.99 ages 12 and up
"If theft is a concern, I can assure you that such a device is safer in Miss Anderson's locked cabinet than in some untended backpack."
"Yeah, but I'm pretty careful..."
"Oh yes, we're all pretty careful...
And the two minutes in which our backpack is unsupervised, someone reaches in and steals the brand-new digital camera we so unwisely brought to school with us.
True story, by the way."
I think I'm turning a corner. I have begun to relish reading some of the expert graphic novels that are being published for our kids...well, and for adults who love to read them, too. So, I am reading the journals, and some of my favorite blogs, to find those that are compelling, entertaining and informative. The newest one concerns Sadie and a decision she makes in her anticipation of moving to yet another new school.
Being the new kid in high school is a topic that has been explored over and over again. Given a choice, would any of us want to be the one who walks in that first day? The experience can be harrowing, and demoralizing, and make you want to run and hide. Sadie has made a few moves with her mom, and she is not looking forward to her arrival at Plainfield Community High School. So, she decides that she will make herself more interesting.
She invents a peanut allergy, and you can probably suspect that things will not go smoothly when they begin with a lie. Some of her classmates are sympathetic; many are not. When Zoo Suzuki shows an interest in her, she is saved from total social disaster. As their relationship grows, so do Sadie's misgivings. She knows she should tell him and try to explain why she made the choice she did. She just can't seem to work up the courage. From the outside, it seems easy....just tell the truth. From her place in time, it is much more difficult.
Sadie wears a medic alert bracelet to school each day, and takes it off before she gets home. She talks about close calls, and even has a few. She needs medical forms, must report to the school nurse and gives the impression that she carries an Epi-pen with her at all times. An over-anxious teacher is the final straw in tumbling her precarious house of cards. He panics when he tastes a nut in food the two are sharing, and the truth becomes her only option.
In Paul Hoppe's black-and-white graphic panels, Sadie is the only one who sports color. Her shirts are coral. We know where she is at all times. I appreciate seeing her thoughts as she imagines what her friends will say when they learn her secret. Her emotions are clear. The characters who people her story are appealing and real. Her mother loves her, wants to hear what she has to say and their relationship is tender. Zoo is a great boyfriend...loyal, thoughtful and unique. The encounters between students are often funny, yet poignant.
Great characters, an uncomfortable situation, trying to find a place in the world while your world is in a state of confusion and flux make for a book that will find fans in middle and high school classrooms.