Friday, January 4, 2013
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead she's the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier.
OK, I didn't read Telgemeier's first graphic novel Smile. This dental story brings back too many painful memories. So I wasn't familiar with her work when I picked up Drama and started to read it. Well, at first, I didn't like it very much, I thought it was going to be another tween-girl -lovesick-for-taken-boy story. But as I read, I began to see something emerging and I really changed my mind. It was middle school just as I remembered it - more or less.
The main character is Callie, a 7th grader who loves theater so when her school, Eucalyptus Middle, decides to put on a production of Moon Over Mississippi, she there. What is refreshing is that Callie does not want to be the star, she is perfectly happy being part of the stage crew, Set design is her passion and what she wants when she grows up. Callie's life isn't bad for a 7th grader, that is, until it comes to boys.
Right from the start, Callie falls for the wrong guy, who has just had a fight with his girlfriend, popular Bonnie, and leads Callie on with a kiss. Disappointed, Callie never notices who does like her. And worst still, Bonnie gets the lead part in the play and is a total diva. Then new students, twins Justin and Jesse, arrive and prove themselves able performers, but only Justin tries out for the play, Jesse is too shy and prefers to work behind the scenes. Justin and Jesse add a very interesting dimension to the story, but I think it would be too much of a spoiler to say why.
Rehearsals, set building and costuming all progress with all usual problems that come with school plays, but, to her credit as a writer, Telgemeier lets the kids work things through, just as she lets them work through their romance dramas.
Drama turns out to be a really great graphic novel. One thing I noticed right off is that you really get the sense of time passing, of things advancing and I loved that sense of movement towards their goal. The characters are all have individual personalities and are drawn so they are easy to differentiate (which can sometimes be a problem with graphic novels).
But the thing that clinched this novel for me was how diverse it is. There is a very nice cross-section of kids, they weren't all white, straight and perfect. These kids made mistakes, worked them out and carried on, just like I watched my own daughter and her friends do in middle school.
Drama is such a charming, middle grade graphic, with lots of not -over-the-top drama and a great positive book to give to those kids on their way to middle school (I know I did this past Christmas).
This book is recommended for readers 9-12
This book was obtained from the publisher