A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The author documents her creative process and work flow in updating the illustrations for this book.
Lots of positive messages about the value of friendship, like how friends see each other through tough times and help and support each other. Other positive messages include learning not to worry too much if you feel like you don't fit in, and about trying not to let what others say or think get you down.
Positive Role Models
Different body sizes, skin colors, and hair types depicted in both important characters and people in backgrounds. Encourages girls to study hard and get a well-rounded education by studying arts and sciences. Jun and Cassie model a strong friendship. Jun handles Emily's attempts to intimidate and put her down really well, until she handles it really poorly once. All negative behavior has consequences. There's some sadness when Jun talks about her father, who died when she was about 7, and feeling upset that she remembers less and less about him as time goes by.
Violence & Scariness
A picture about the past shows a dead bird with blood trailing from it, killed by a hunter. Another series of pictures show a punch to the face, the victim holding her nose, and blood streaming from her nose. A picture shows someone being knocked down and choked. Another series shows a large, scary unicorn with demonic eyes attacking someone. There's a safe resolution. Some pictures show a dark, scary forest. A lot of the plot has to do with some "queen bee" behavior like threats and sabotage.
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Emily uses "queen bee" behavior including verbal aggression, threats, put-downs, and sarcasm to belittle Jun.
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Products & Purchases
A game of Monopoly.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that veteran author-illustrator Faith Erin Hicks' One Year at Ellsmere is a graphic novel that updates an earlier version called The War at Ellsmere. It's the same story but has new or updated illustrations and is all in color. A couple of pictures show blood from a bird killed by a hunter and from a bloody nose. Other violence includes pictures of a punch in the face; a scary fantasy creature attacking; and a student knocking another down and choking her. There's some "queen bee" behavior from Emily who uses verbal aggression like threats, put-downs, and sarcasm to intimidate and belittle. There's lots of positive representations of different body sizes, skin colors, and hair types. Girls are encouraged to study hard and get a well-rounded education in arts and sciences. Strong messages about friendship and learning how to fit in. Jun's father died when she was about 7, and there's some sadness when she talks about not remembering him as well as she used to.
Is It Any Good?
Middle-schoolers, especially girls, will enjoy this rich update of a school story about friendship, academic competition, and a mysterious creature. The updated illustrations really pop, and now One Year at Ellsmere is all in color. There are lots of positive representations for girls especially, and good examples of strong friendship and how to handle verbal aggression. The story moves along well and keeps the pages turning throughout the school year. The ending brings in a fantasy element that some may feel is out of place, but overall it satisfies while leaving room for more stories from Ellsmere.
Fans of graphic novels and aspiring illustrators will also appreciate the Afterword in which author Faith Erin Hicks documents her creative process and work flow.
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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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