Middle Grade Monday Book Review: This One Summer by Julian Tamaki


This One Summer is by a writer-illustrator team of cousins! Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki.

Here’s what it’s about:

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. One of the local teens – just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy – is caught up in something bad… Something life threatening.

It’s a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

This One Summer is a tremendously exciting new teen graphic novel from two creators with true literary clout. Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of childhood – a story of renewal and revelation

 Three things for a kid to like:

1. Honesty. This is a sometimes brutally honest look at the confusing world of girls on the cusp of their teenage years. It’s about two girls who have a summer vacation home friendship, a taste for horrifically violent movies, a crush on the young man who works at the video shop, and healthy amount of confusion about their own changing bodies and changing desires. Because of the swearing and the pregnancy of an older teen in the story this is a book that will probably be shelved with YA. A reasonable choice. I don’t think I’d want a 3rd or 4th grader to wander into this story unaware, but I do think it has lots of food for thought for the older 12-14 range of the middle grade audience.

2. The graphic novel world is often a very boy-oriented place but this was a great story about two girls sharing a summer. The relationship was not sentimentalized. The art was true to the real bodies of real people. None of the exaggerated and sexualized body types so common in comics.

3. The other thread in this story is the mother of one of the girls grief over her miscarriage. So the story addresses a child’s perception of a parent’s grief–the mother hadn’t yet told her daughter about the pregnancy so she didn’t tell her about the loss either. All the girl can see is that her parents were trying for another baby and then they stopped trying and started fighting. It’s not such a common topic in a children’s book but it might be a good springboard for conversation about grief and specifically how parents and kids grieve differently.

Something for the writer to think about:

Grief is hard to write about and I thought the author and illustrator did a great job of balancing the work of talking/telling about the grief and showing it with images and actions. It got me thinking about those character conversations in my own stories that could be perhaps better left unsaid but expressed through an action.

How I came to review this book:

I found this book in my library when I was looking for something else. I picked it up because it looked like a nice summer “girl story”. The cover is a bit deceptive but I’m glad I picked it up.

One thought on “Middle Grade Monday Book Review: This One Summer by Julian Tamaki

  1. Greg Pattridge

    Never heard of this book, but the story sounds perfect for a middle school. I also like that it is a graphic novel. There are many girls looking for this type of book – one that features a female protagonist. Thanks for sharing.

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