Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk, 272 pp, RL 5
Purchased at Barnes & Noble
Story: The dual meaning of Gudsnuk's title is brilliant. Dany started seventh grade at a new middle school and her friends aren't in any of her classes and they don't share her lunch period. She is struggling to make new friends and being tormented by a bully. While drawing Neptune, the evil (but misunderstood) prince from her favorite manga inspired show, Solar Sisters, Dany discovers that the sketchbook she inherited from her great aunt has magical properties that bring her drawings to life. Hilariously, Dany only sketched Prince Neptune's head, so that is what appears, shockingly, on her bed as she completes her drawing. Recognizing the power of the sketchbook, Dany draws herself a best friend with all the perfect traits, Madison Fontaine. In fact, Madison is so cool and likable that she makes friends of her own. Being friends with Madison gets complicated, made worse by Prince Neptune's questionable devotion and desire to help Dany. Dany realizes that, even if she brought Madison to life from the pages of her sketchbook, she still has to treat her like a real friend.
Illustrations: Gudsnuk's style is evocative of manga while also completely capturing the middle school scene. And, like middle school, her characters are intensely emotional and their feelings practically pops off the page. She is also superb at conveying action, the story moving at a fast pace.
Why Read? Why Buy?: Making Friends is the perfect graphic novel, in my opinion. An intriguing real life story provides the backbone for a fantastic fantasy plot twist. I adore everything Raina Telgemeier does, but I think my favorite graphic novel of hers is Ghosts, for this very reason - the touch of magic layered into a real life story. I have no doubt readers will embrace Gudsnuk's book the way they have Telgemeier's. On top of this, Gudsnuk (also like Telgemeier) creates characters who struggle, face personal challenges, make mistakes and learn and grow. Don't tell kids, but they could learn something from Making Friends...