ACT by Kayla Miller, 224 pp, RL 4
ACT by Kayla Miller
(CLICK Series, Book 3)
Color by Jess Lome, Lettering by Chris Dickey
Published by HMH
Exclusive Edition purchased from Barnes & Noble
What I love most about Kayla Miller's graphic novels (and all great graphic novels) is the surprising way multiple ideas are layered into the story and given a complete arc. With ACT, the third book in this stellar series (scroll down for a peek at book 4) Miller presents complex ideas like class inequality, privilege, social activism, and peaceful protest, to name a few, in a context that will resonate with young readers, while also providing back matter that will inspire further reading (and baking!)
Olive Branch, and (almost) everyone else in sixth grade are excited for the class field trip to the big city to see a Hamilton-esque musical that leaves them singing all the way home. When Olive discovers that students from families that can't afford the cost of the field trip are left behind, she is upset. Unable to get her skate buds, Trent and Sawyer, to share her concern, Olive is inspired by her Aunt Molly (a librarian!) and lots of research, to organize a peaceful protest. A sit-in and a petition generate some interest, but not enough to bring about change, leading Olive to make the big decision to run for class president - against Trent and Sawyer.
While the platform of candidate allows Olive a louder voice and bigger audience, it also makes for problems with friends and classmates. Willow's new friendship (is it s crush?) with Hugh, acting campaign manager for Trent and Sawyer (who are running solely to bring better snacks to the cafeteria) brings challenges for the friends while classmates refuse to support Olive, worried that her work to lower the cost of field trips for a few will result in the cancellation of field trips for everyone. With campaign manager Ava on her side, Olive runs an admirable campaign, but not without a few sleepless nights. As in the first two books, Miller uses Olive's dreams as a way to visually work through her anxiety and fears, allowing readers to experience the emotions with her.
What I love most about ACT, besides everything else, really, is the deeply satisfying ending Miller delivers, showing readers that, just because you want to do good, are compassionate and work for equal opportunities for everyone, you don't always have the support of others needed to make changes. Alongside this hard truth, Miller also shows readers that change is possible and sometimes others do hear you when you use your voice to speak out and, ultimately, there is good to be found in everyone. Even chocoalte-pudding-loving skate dudes.
In an interview, Miller shared that they always do visual research in order to draw things accurately (like skateboarding and drumming) for ACT, it was the first time they read for research, learning about how kids have been involved in social and political movements. Along with an excellent suggested reading list in the back matter, Miller also created a four-page, illustrated short list of the peaceful protests Olive studied while researching at the library. A key part of Olive's work to bring equity to campus involved a bake sale to raise funds for students who can't afford the cost of field trips. Happily, Miller includes the recipe for "Mint Chocolate Chip-Ins," a recipe they created on their own!