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Review: ‘Positively Izzy’

Positively Izzy
In this companion novel to Invisible Emmie, readers will get another genuine glimpse into a middle schooler’s life, the inner turmoil and emotions, in a humorous and nonthreatening way. This companion book follows the same style as its counterpart, with alternating chapters and two seemingly intersecting stories written in cartoons or comics format.

Positively Izzy
By Terri Libenson
Harper Collins, 220 pp. $22.99
Grades 4-8

positively izzyWe briefly met Brianna in Invisible Emmie. She’s Emmie’s best friend. We are introduced to her when she tells us that she hates labels. She particularly hates being labeled as a “brain.” Brianna’s problem is that her mother recently started working as the Drama teacher in her school. Everyone loves the new teacher, but Brianna just feels awkward. Then her mother asks her to pinch hit at the school’s talent show at the last minute. Brianna doesn’t want to do it, but she doesn’t want to say no either.

We also meet Izzy, who loves drama and is excited to be part of her school’s talent show. Her hard-working single mom, won’t let her be in the show after she comes home with another bad grade, but she sneaks out and joins anyway.

Both stories, which seem to intersect and yet are independent until there’s a surprise twist at the end, are full of the raw emotions of a middle school student. This story is less about the social mores of middle school (though that certainly is ever-present) than about the parent/child relationship and that awkwardness of trying to please while trying to form your own identity. Libenson captures that feeling well.

This isn’t a full-fledged graphic novel, though there are more comic strip panels than most of the illustrated diary books. The colored artwork is bright, light, and humorous. The artwork in the diary portion is small and compact, as it might be in a diary, but the panels portion of the book feels more spacious. This is an excellent choice for middle grade readers. Invisible Emmie does modestly well in my middle school. I suspect it will do even better with an upper elementary age audience. If your voracious reader has read all the Diary of a Wimpy Kids and Dork Diaries books, hand them this series. They’ll love it.

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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