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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Best Friends is a graphic-novel memoir by Shannon Hale, continuing her story from Real Friends as she's about to start sixth grade. Many familiar characters return and new ones are introduced. Bullying is mentioned, and we see Shannon get hit on the head with a playground ball and taunted, though she doesn't seem injured. Roughhousing accidentally causes a concussion. A few scary illustrations show haunted-house monsters and skeletons, and a fantasy segment shows a scary dark wizard with a large, skull-like head. Details about Shannon's anxiety and some OCD behavior are illustrated and described. The author encourages talking about feelings, especially anxiety, and provides an online resource for further information. The fantasy element also illustrates and embrace with hearts all around, and one kiss that's more of a hostile gesture than a romantic one. Themes explore friendship, group dynamics, gender roles and relationships, and navigating a confusing world in which the rules always seem to be changing. Ultimately hopeful, positive messages are about finding the inner strength to try new things, staying true to yourself, and keeping on searching for deep, meaningful friendships.
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What's the story?
As she's about to start sixth grade, Shannon is sure she knows who her BEST FRIENDS are. She's also looking forward a fun year as, finally, the oldest, coolest kids in the school. Instead, each new day seems to bring some new rule or a change in the old rules about friendships, what it means to be a girl, how girls and boys are supposed to relate to each other, and what's cool. This makes Shannon nervous and afraid that she'll do something uncool that will make her lose her friends and get cast out of the popular clique, The Group. Until her alter ego Alexandra, hero of a fantasy story Shannon's writing, shows her how to find and channel the inner strength that was in her all along.
Is it any good?
This lively, honest graphic-novel memoir captures all the turmoil and drama of being 12 and discovering that you don't, in fact, finally have everything figured out. Author Shannon Hale's storytelling in Best Friends ably conveys how confusing friendships can be in a way that big kids and tweens will really relate to. And the dynamic illustrations of LeUyen Pham add depth to both characters and emotions. Interweaving the fantasy story into the narration helps readers follow Shannon's journey as she learns how to find the inner strength to forge her own path, and to keep looking for deep, meaningful connections with others.
The graphic-novel format makes this a good choice for reluctant readers, and it's a great opportunity to talk to kids about friendship, group dynamics, like-liking someone, anxiety, fears, being true to yourself, and more.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Best Friends shows friendship. Is it realistic? What makes a good friend? How can you tell if someone's your friend or not?
Do you get anxious feelings like Shannon does, or do you know someone who does? Where can you go for help, or how do you think you could help someone with their feelings?
Did you like Shannon's fantasy story about Alexandra? How do you think writing that story helped Shannon? What are some of your favorite creative outlets?
- Author: Shannon Hale
- Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: First Second
- Publication date: August 27, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: August 29, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love graphic novels and friendship stories
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