Find Your Song
Graphic novels are not my favourite. I just don’t seem to be drawn to them like more traditional novels. That being said, when Kyo Maclear writes a graphic novel I’m first in line to check it out. She is one of our favourite children’s writers. Her ability to write such varied children’s stories all with so much depth and breadth make her a common name on our bookshelves.
In Operatic we meet Charlotte Noguchi (aka Charlie), her friends and her wonderful teacher Mr. Kerner. Mr. Kerner is different, he’s one of those really cool, plugged in teachers whorequire their students to think and reflect. I think at some point we all have a Mr. Kerner, at least I hope we do. Teachers like him make the middle school/high school experience so much richer and so much more bearable. Charlie is in middle school, those crazy, hormonal, wicked years of self discovery. Middle school is like the African Savanna, the delicate balance of the circle of life can be so easily thrown into chaos at the simplest of things. There are those who seem to lack compassion, who seek to judge and humiliate, there are those who are brave and courageous enough to be their most authentic selves, there are those who are still figuring things out. There is an empty desk in the classroom, once occupied by Luka who is taking a bit of a break after professing his feelings for Emile at the open mic in Mr. Kerner’s class and being ridiculed. To Charlie, Luka seems unfazed by the taunting and the laughter. She’s almost in awe of him but then he doesn’t return to school for a few days. After discovering opera and Maria Callas, Charlie gains some perspective, realizing sometimes what you see on the outside does not necessarily reflect how we are feeling on the inside. We all wear masks. There are times when we appear strong but can feel like complete mush inside. She empathizes with Luka and extends a text of friendship.
Like all of Kyo Maclear’s work, this graphic novel has so much depth. There are so many themes to latch onto and dive right down into and explore. It’s such an important book to make available to all middle graders and young adults as it is so reflective of the emotions and the daily goings on in their lives. There is so much discovery within these pages. Charlie is so relatable. I think we all experience a time in our lives when we want to blend in and we cringe at those who stand out. Perhaps that is just my experience but I feel like if I could relate to Charlie as an adult, then think about how many young people would be able to relate to the things she is saying and feeling?
I would be remiss in speaking about a graphic novel if I missed the opportunity to gush over the work of Byron Eggenschwiler, whose name has come up recently in other books we admire this spring. His illustrative style is so fluid with a retro vibe. I love how in Operatic he chose a simple colour palette which changes depending on the mood and the reflection in the story, yellow for Charlie, blue when she is telling the reader about Luka and red when she is talking about Maria Callas. The colour choices really help the story flow and allows the reader to follow along a little easier as the scenes change and the story moves back and forth through time. There is an Alice in Wonderland quality, beautiful and a little odd, moving but still all at the same time. I can’t wait to see what he is working on next.