By Michael Berry,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Graphic novel about musical theater has positive messages.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Presents a detailed and realistic picture of what it takes, onstage and backstage, to produce musical theater. Mentions the plot and setting of Moon Over Mississippi, as well as Shakespeare and the history of stage design, which may inspire readers to research further.
It takes many hands to put on a school musical, so teamwork, communication, and hard work are important. Trying something new can be scary but can help build confidence and make friends. It's important to be empathetic and understanding in friendships and to accept and support others' differences. Not everyone is good at the same things, but each person has their own talent and way of shining.
Positive Role Models
Main character Callie is enthusiastic and works hard but sometimes loses sight of what's realistic. She's empathetic and tells others how talented they are but occasionally gets jealous -- particularly when it comes to boys. Justin and Jesse are twins who support each other. Justin is confident, friendly, looks out for his brother. Jesse is thoughtful, happy to step back and let Justin shine at first, but gradually grows into himself and finds his confidence and identity. The kids all come together to communicate well, solve problems, and support one another as a team.
Characters have varying skin colors. The core group includes Latino, Black, and Filipino characters; the wider friendship group also has East and South Asian kids. Characters talk about same-gender attraction, with two boys coming out as gay and another wondering whether he's bisexual or gay. (They're accepted without judgement by their friends, though characters express concern over telling parents.) Gender stereotypes are both challenged and reinforced; on one hand, a male character steps in to perform the female role in a play, wearing a dress and kissing the male character onstage. On the other, female characters are the only ones seen to cry, and they wait for male characters to ask them to the dance.
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Violence & Scariness
A character falls onstage and gets hurt, with mention of blood; not shown in the illustration. Passing mentions of a concussion and potentially shooting an eye out with a prop. Kids go into a scary, dark costume cellar. Siblings play-fight, and a character's hands get stuck together with Super Glue.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Middle school characters talk about crushes and dating and kiss on the cheek and lips on a couple of occasions. Mentions of breakups and asking someone to the school dance, as well as scenes of dancing close together.
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Name-calling includes "lame," "losers," "fuzzbrain," "dumb," "dork," and "thickheaded." "Shut up" is also used.
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Products & Purchases
Brands mentioned include Snickers, Skittles, Cheez Doodles, and Corn Nuts, which are purchased from a vending machine.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Drama, by author-illustrator Raina Telgemeier, is a funny, affecting look at what it takes to put on a middle school musical. The story emphasizes the need for teamwork, both onstage and backstage, and has messages about the importance of friendship, empathy, communication, and acceptance. There's name-calling, but characters are mostly kind and support one another. Two male characters come out as gay, and another wonders whether he might be bisexual, which friends accept with kindness and understanding. Parents may find this a good example of positive LGBTQ+ characters, as well as a way to discuss the importance of teamwork and friendship.
Where to Read
Based on 29 parent reviews
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What's the Story?
In DRAMA, seventh grader Callie has a passion for theater. When her middle school prepares a production of the musical Moon Over Mississippi, she has ambitious ideas for building Broadway-worthy sets. But the reality of a small budget, unimpressive ticket sales, and a chaotic backstage crew threatens to puncture her dream. Add in a series of romantic misunderstandings and friends with their own struggles going on, and Callie has her hands full.
Is It Any Good?
Written with affection and humor, this graphic novel captures the excitement and chaos of producing an ambitious school musical. Author-illustrator Raina Telgemeier creates an engaging cast of different personality types and plenty of chaos, both onstage and off, before Drama gets to its final act.
Telgemeier's cartoony artwork has the humor and expressiveness of an Archie comic in its prime, but with a slightly younger -- and more inclusive -- cast of characters. Her middle school kids are diverse in ethnicity and sexuality, with the journey of gay and bisexual characters treated with warmth and sensitivity. This is a fun, energetic story, with plenty of positive messages and discussion points.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the graphic novel format. How is it effective in telling the story of Drama? Do you think this would also work as a prose novel, TV show, or movie?
Does Drama give you a good idea of what it takes to stage an ambitious school musical? Does this book make you want to work on a school production? What role do you think might suit your personality and talents?
Characters show many positive qualities, such as strong communication, empathy, and teamwork. Why are these important among friends generally and, particularly, in working on a project together?
Why is it sometimes difficult to try new activities? What prevents kids from exploring unfamiliar social circles? Can you think of a time when you tried something new? How did you feel, and what was the outcome?
- Author: Raina Telgemeier
- Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, Middle School, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Communication, Empathy, Teamwork
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Graphix
- Publication date: September 1, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback
- Last updated: March 29, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Where to Read
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