Remember the old J.K. Rowling web site? The one me and hundreds (thousands?) of teens and kids (other adults?) used to pore over as we waited for the next book to come out? It opened with a picture of her desktop, and you could click on gum wrappers, paperclips, her date book and then cool things would happen. It was neat.
Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick, a new book by Jennifer Holm and illustrated by Elicia Castaldi, reminds me a lot of that site (which no longer exists, by the way). Each two-page spread is a snapshot of what’s going on in Ginny Davis’s life. The story is told entirely through photos, notes, Ginny’s poetry assignments, comic strips, and other odds and ends. It’s an interesting format and a very quick read. At first I had wished there was more to Ginny’s story--she’s a likable character—but then I realized that the form fit the function. Tweens will appreciate every last detail of Ginny’s life as they pore over each page. The story has a good arc, there's believable conflict, and realistic situations. And it's practically all told through illustrations.
The publisher’s description of the book calls it “part graphic novel, part scrapbook, and altogether original,” but a similar novel was published this year for teens: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral (and there probably are more). Chopsticks is much longer than Holm’s book and is a mystery, sort of. The story, about a musical prodigy and the boy she falls in love with, is told through text messages, photographs, and letters. Unfortunately it’s not a very good story. It’s visually arresting, but rather week in narrative. Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick might not be as original as reported, but it’s a much better story.