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Real Friends Paperback – May 2, 2017
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“In Real Friends, Shannon Hale reflects on her own friendship-troubled elementary school years with honesty, humor and grace . . . Her readers will find much to love here, including LeUyen Pham’s brilliant and multilayered art . . . These detailed memories of elementary school will ring hilariously true to adult readers . . . At the same time, stories of whispered rumors and being left out will be achingly familiar for readers navigating those waters in the here and now.” ―author Kate Messner, writing in the New York Times Book Review
“The book's truth is as vibrant as its art.” ―Washington Post
“A heart-stabbing tale of the everyday social agonies of girlhood.” ―Wall Street Journal
“Real Friends tackles bullying, childhood anxiety, and growing pains in a heartfelt way that’ll transport every woman who went to elementary school back into her days as a young girl . . . but the book also shows us the incredible kindness and solidarity that girls can and do display.” ―The Mary Sue
“A wistful, affecting, and utterly charming exploration of the realities of childhood friendship.” ―Booklist, starred review
“This tender, perceptive graphic memoir is bound to resonate with most readers, especially fans of Raina Telgemeier and kids struggling with the often turbulent waters of friendships and cliques.” ―School Library Journal, starred review
“A wonderfully observed portrait of finding one’s place in your world.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Readers will appreciate Shannon's fantastic imagination that lightens her tough journey toward courage and self-acceptance.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Hand this book to fans of Raina Telgemeier’s and Cece Bell’s graphic memoirs.” ―Horn Book
“Pham’s visual version of Hale expresses everything, with bright creativity and intense emotional suffering warring across her face, her body posture, and even in her gait. Hale fans will appreciate the look behind the curtain at where some of her amazing book ideas are rooted, and kids who have struggled with the complexity of grade school friendships, i.e., any kid, will find comfort that the dark days can be survived.” ―The Bulletin
“Real Friends is honest and heartfelt, and sure to be loved by anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. The artwork is stunning, too!” ―Victoria Jamieson, New York Times–bestselling and Newbery Honor author of Roller Girl
“Fresh, fun, and achingly real. Bravo!” ―Jennifer L. Holm, New York Times–bestselling and Newbery Honor author and co-creator of Sunny Side Up and the Babymouse series
“Real Friends made me laugh, broke my heart, and gave me hope. This book is SO GOOD. SO MANY FEELS.” ―Gene Luen Yang, New York Times-bestselling and National Book Award Finalist author of American Born Chinese
About the Author
Shannon Hale is the bestselling author of many books for children, including the Ever After High series, Princess Academy (Newbery Honor book), and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl middle grade novel. She co-wrote the graphic novels Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack and the chapter book series The Princess in Black with her husband Dean Hale. They live with their four children near Salt Lake City, Utah.
LeUyen Pham is the bestselling illustrator of The Princess in Black series with Shannon and Dean Hale. She wrote and illustrated Big Sister, Little Sister and The Bear Who Wasn’t There and is the illustrator of many other picture books, including The Boy Who Loved Math. She lives and works in Los Angeles with her husband and her two adorable sons.
Top customer reviews
REAL FRIENDS is the graphic novel we have been all waiting for. I can see this book being passed around my fifth-grade classroom, just as popular as SMILE and SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier. By the end of the school year, REAL FRIENDS will look worn and well loved. I plan on purchasing multiple copies to keep up with the popularity I know this book will have in my class. I cannot wait for the release of this book. It is a must have for any classroom and school library.
Enjoyed so much that I added it to my Mock Newbery 2018 book list. Note: I'm not sure if a memoir can win the Newbery but I know this book is worth sharing & discussing with young readers!
When you’re really little, making friends is easy. You sit next to someone in Kindergarten and suddenly they’re your best friend for all time. For Shannon, Adrienne was that friend. Yet when third grade rolled around, things started to change. Suddenly Shannon, Adrienne, a popular girl named Jen, and a whole bunch of other girls are in The Group. That includes Jenny, Jen’s best friend and a dyed-in-the-wool bully to Shannon. Figuring out if she’s out or in can be exhausting for Shannon, and that’s before you even consider her violently unpredictable older sister Wendy or her own OCD. But that’s the thing about true friends sometimes. They sure as heck don’t come easy.
In her Author’s Note at the end Shannon says that “Real Friends it he story I’ve been telling myself about my elementary school years,” yet also acknowledges that “memories aren’t 100 percent accurate.” She mentions that the idea of writing a memoir was a relatively recent one considering the fact that from a drama perspective she had a pretty stable home life. That, naturally, is the allure. With “Real Friends” Hale zeroes in on a single aspect of childhood: friendship. It’s something a lot of kids have to contend with. In her own Author’s Note, artist LeUyen Pham says her heart, “is still convinced that somehow you [Shannon] crawled inside my memories and handpicked all these events and feelings and insecurities from my childhood and called them your own.” I think that’s the true allure of the title. This is a mirror for a lot of kids who are struggling with friendships. They’re going to see what LeUyen saw and feel it too. There was a movement not too long ago where people on YouTube let teens know that “it gets better”. Shannon’s message is the same. As she puts it, “If you haven’t found your ‘group’ yet, hang in there. Your world will keep growing larger and wider. You deserve to have real friends, the kind who treat you well and get how amazing you are.”
But how do you do it? How do you take faulty memories and etched-in-stone feelings from the past and turn them into a book? On a recent episode of the podcast RadioLab, a lot of discussion was made of the fact that to even access memories, a person needs a lot of imagination. The same could be said of conjuring up memories for a graphic novel. Hindsight may be 20/20 but memory is 3/10. Sometimes it’s necessary to plug the details up with creativity. In a way, Shannon probably had a lot of this book mapped out in her head already. Dwell on something enough and you turn it into a story, complete with dramatic shifts in tension and morality. I particularly appreciated the moments when Shannon, the character, was in the wrong. This book doesn’t usually break down into “good” and “bad” people, but rather into the casual indifferent cruelties of childhood. The off-handed comment you don’t even remember saying that burned a small hole into your friend’s soul. The fact that Shannon’s just as capable of this as anyone gives the book a bit of extra weight.
There’s one other aspect of the book that sets it apart from the pack. Heck, sets it apart from pretty much every children’s graphic novel from a trade publisher I’ve ever seen: religion. Shannon grew up in a Mormon household and so religion is just a regular event in her life. We see prayer, Sunday scriptures, and the occasional Jesus cameo when Shannon is feeling particularly down in the dumps. The only other middle grade graphic novel (comics for 9-12 year olds) I’ve ever seen from a large publisher that incorporates worship as seamlessly would be the books in the “Hereville” series by Barry Deutsch, and that was Hasidic. Someone once commented that the only sitcom you see on your television these days where a family regularly goes to church is “The Simpsons”. In children’s books that topic is almost entirely regulated to small religious presses. So I appreciate that “Real Friends” doesn’t shy away from something that, for a lot of people, is a regular part of life.
And now, a word in praise of LeUyen Pham. Pham and Hale are hardly strangers to one another. For years now they’ve collaborated together on the delightful Zorro-esque "Princess in Black" series. That said, I haven’t seen Ms. Pham do a graphic novel since she worked on the far older “Prince of Persia” back in 2008. They take a bit of time to do, after all. What’s more, all the autobiographical graphic novels I mentioned at the beginning of this review were written and illustrated by the same person (always excepting “Sunny Side Up” which is a brother/sister team). If you bring in an artist to basically illustrate your life, you want someone you can trust. Good thing Ms. Pham is a stickler with accuracy. When she illustrated the nonfiction biography about Paul Erdos “The Boy Who Loved Math” she went so far as to clarify in her Illustrator's Note at the end that she had to imagine the physical appearance of the boy’s nanny. “Real Friends” isn’t nonfiction in the strict sense of the word. Characters are combined, timelines are moved up, and names are definitely changed. Still, just looking at the setting you really feel you’re in the 1980s. Pham’s attention to detail is given full reign, whether you’re checking out the computers, the clothes (oh the clothes, the clothes, the clothes) or even the furniture. Not that it’s all coke bottle glasses and Thompson Twins. There’s enough pretend and imagination in these storylines to allow Pham to really stretch her muscles and engage in spy sequences, fantastical journeys, and even the occasional Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader.
In many ways the book “Real Friends” feels the closest to in terms of content and tone is “El Deafo” by Cece Bell. Both books are quests for true friendship. Both take place in the past (though Bell’s is probably set eight or so years before Hale’s). And both are autobiographical memoirs that look at bad friendships, hurt feelings, and the ultimate reward that all kids can relate to: a good friend. A fun strong book to show kids that even when you haven’t got a real friend in the world, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
For ages 9-12.
I received a digital ARC of this book for review – all opinions are my own.
TMI? Sorry about that. But you should definitely read this, and have your daughters read this. It's an excellent starting point to talk about developing empathy and self-awareness, especially when others are treating you badly. (Kudos to young Shannon for setting boundaries with her bully while also showing that it was a difficult thing to do even it was also the right thing to do.)