Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training

tr. from French. illus. by Aurélie Neyret. 160p. First Second. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626722484.
Gr 3–6—Translated from French, Chamblain's charming graphic novel centers on a 10-year-old supersleuth navigating life, school, and relationships. Cici channels her dreams of being an author into a notebook, recounting two of her stakeouts-turned-adventures. Her "trick for telling stories is to observe people, imagine their lives, their secrets," but sometimes that comes at the cost of others' feelings. Learning to use her inquisitive nature responsibly becomes Cici's most perplexing mystery as she struggles to balance supporting her loved ones and chasing her passion. The scrapbook journal style of the book, with its emphasis on Cici's thoughts, lends itself well to the narrative, and her imagination shines through in scribbles, doodles, and notes. The lush, muted illustrations deftly convey mood through light, shadow, and washes of color. The secondary characters are also well rendered. The girl's single mother is authentic and warm, Cici's bonds with her best friends emphasize the importance of give-and-take in relationships, and an elderly neighbor's writing career inspires Cici. While some plot points resolve too serendipitously, graphic novel fans will appreciate this feel-good tale.
VERDICT Equal parts Amelia's Notebook, Harriet the Spy, and a whimsical flavor of its own, this winsome title should easily find a home in most middle grade collections.

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