Becoming Brianna

Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. (Emmie & Friends). May 2020. 320p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780062894540; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780062894533.
Gr 4-6–Brianna’s mom has a way of talking her into taking center stage, but when Brianna reluctantly agrees to have a Bat Mitzvah, she realizes that things have gone too far. Not only must she be in the spotlight but she also has to write and perform a speech and read passages in Hebrew, a language she doesn’t know, in front of her friends and family. Her mom has gone into preparation overdrive, her parents are fighting constantly, and the whole school thinks that this will be the party of the year. Will Brianna survive the school year—including a change in social status and friend drama—while still managing not to embarrass herself at the big event? Libenson’s newest installment in the “Emmie & Friends” series is a hybrid graphic novel that uses different illustration techniques to tell Brianna’s story in alternating time lines. Chapters focusing on events from the prior eight months rely on a mixture of prose text and comic illustrations, while the “now” chapters, which depict the Bat Mitzvah celebration, are in a traditional sequential comic panel format. Readers will relate to Brianna’s attempts to manage her stress load as well as her insecurity and flaws as she works to form and maintain friendships.
VERDICT For middle grade graphic novel collections, especially where Libenson’s previous works are popular.

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