~Review by Amanda Smith
Go with the Flow (First Second, 2020) is written and illustrated by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann, co-creators of the online comic series The Mean Magenta and is the book I wish I had when I was a teen.
Brit, Sasha, Christine and Abby are four sophomore friends, who share laughs, rides, cookies and quiet conversations about their struggles with their periods. These four girls could not be more different in ethnicity, body types, personalities, and menstrual experiences, which makes this book super relatable to its YA audience. (No one-note, perfect, fictional girls here!) Upbeat Abby, fierce defender of women’s rights, decides to address the lack of feminine products in their school’s bathrooms after Sasha has a period emergency. Her passion and determination to be heard leads to hurt feelings, teetering friendships, and important lessons about listening. Brit deals with excruciating cramps that forces her to miss several days of school per month. She has to face well-meaning but clueless male teachers, and experiences anxiety about what might be wrong with her. Go with the Flow also addresses other teenage topics such as boys (the nice ones and the “fart bags”), sexual identity, generational and cultural gaps, activism, and kindness, without ever being preachy.
This YA graphic novel, filled with interesting facts throughout and containing oodles of relevant backmatter, is geared towards a more mature audience. However, it is a must-read, helping teens feel more comfortable about their changing bodies, and opening their eyes to what peers might be experiencing. Readers will recognize themselves within these pages, and all the characters will inspire them to be their best selves.
Bravo for bravery! Lily and Karen unabashedly tackle a subject that has been dubbed as “inappropriate” and “gross” for generations. In Abby’s words “you know, the patriarchy, and all that (barf)”. They deliver a plot focused on the menstrual cycle with lots of heart and tons of humor. They give the reader relatable characters, who feel as real as flesh-and-blood friends. They sprinkle thought-provoking ideas and acts of kindness throughout, educating and arming their readers with knowledge, courage, and hope. If you are feeling hesitant about your own work in progress with “taboo” themes, study Go With the Flow for a dose of daring.
Browse the original Mean Magenta comics here: themeanmagenta.com/
Learn more about Karen at www.karenschneemann.com/
To learn more about Lily, visit lilywilliamsart.com/
~ Review by Amanda Smith
The only thing Maggie wants for her birthday is a puppy. Her twin brothers have one another to play with and her parents are busy preparing for the new baby. Maggie knows her very own dog will be her best friend. But when she finds the perfect puppy at the shelter, she also finds out she is allergic to dogs. Extremely, land-in-the-hospital allergic. To any animal with fur or feathers.
Maggie often feels excluded and jealous of friends who can have pets. She feels guilty because her classroom hamster had to move to a different class due of her allergies. Even though she is getting allergy shots, the process is long and does not offer immediate relief. Her friend Claire, who doesn’t really understand the seriousness of Maggie’s allergies, tries to help, and her solution leads to even more problems and heartache.
Throughout Allergic (Graphix, 2021), Maggie learns the challenges and limitations of living with allergies. But she also learns to be a better big sister, and that she is very much needed, wanted, and loved as part of her family.
Allergic gives a voice to children dealing with allergies, or help them understand friends with allergies. Many allergy sufferers feel, like Maggie, helpless, and are sometimes left out because of something completely outside their control. Without being didactic, Allergic explores these emotional challenges, along with themes of friendship, family, and what it means to belong.
The graphic novel format is the perfect vehicle for this story. Intertwining visual and written storytelling, Lloyd and Nutter delivers the scientific and medical information in bite-size pieces that are interesting and relatable to young readers. Through a combination of art and text, reoccurring themes are strengthened. ALLERGIC is a great study of the dance between illustration and words, even in books for older readers, and how both these aspects enhance story-telling.
To learn more about Megan Wagner Lloyd visit meganwagnerlloyd.com/.
You can find more of Michelle's fabulous art at michellemee.com/.
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