Real Friends

 

 

Shannon Hale, author of The Princess in Black and Princess Academy, gives us this new graphic novel called Real Friends, which is a story of the ups and downs of making friends in elementary school.

The story centers around Shannon, who struggles with fitting in, both within the structure of her family and also with her friends at school. Taunted for being the family cry-baby, Shannon begins school by making friends with Adrienne. At first the duo thrive together playing superheroes and saving the world. However, Adrienne moves away, leaving Shannon alone to figure out the parameters of new friendships. When Adrienne does return, it’s to join ‘the group’; new companions with which Shannon struggles to bond. Their strange nuances and un-written rules lead to frustrations and unhappiness, and feelings of invisibility. At the same time, Shannon must deal with the bear (her sister), who’s mood swings are too difficult to navigate.

The story unfolds as Shannon comes to learn what friendship actually is (and also what it is not). The story is beautifully told and is quite gripping. There is also a nice touch in the plot twist with Shannon’s sister Wendy (the bear), and the relationship that does form between the two is a lovely resolution.

Look out for the sub-plot relating to Shannon’s creative side. Her imagination takes her places that her reality cannot. I also remember asking my child-hood friends to help me write stories, and as a person who was an overly creative child, I can definitely relate to this characteristic.

I’d also like to take a moment or two to mention the illustrations by LeUyen Pham, who provides a very beautifully drawn visual side to the story. She captures Shannon’s imaginations very well, with humorous and creative aptitude. Her depiction of Shannon’s darker times were also, visually speaking, very telling. This story works very well as a graphic novel because of Pham’s amazing art and the use of color. The depictions of the various people (friendly or otherwise) that come into Shannon’s life show an array of characteristics and styles. And Pham’s art conveys beautifully the era in which the book is written, with the accompanying styles (look for Shannon’s sixth grade group at the end of the novel).

This is a great read and very entertaining. I was easily able to relate to the story and can totally see how applicable it is for this age group.

 

Recommended ages are 8 – 12 years.

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