First Second. Jun. 2021. 224p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781250156365; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781250156372.
Gr 4-8–A time-traveling jukebox, snapshots of social unrest, parent-child dynamics, and a heavy dose of vinyl nostalgia—the puzzle pieces are there for a meaningful story about how music connects us, especially in challenging times, but Chanani’s latest graphic novel doesn’t quite hit the mark. Young teen Shaheen and her cousin Tannaz search for Shaheen’s missing father, Gio, by shuffling their way through the time periods represented by the magical jukebox’s albums, from 1930s Harlem to a James Brown concert in Boston right after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination to the birth of hip-hop and beyond. As compelling as it sounds, a story of just over 200 pages isn’t enough to fully realize the many themes introduced. Cultural moments are merely hinted at, and the interpersonal relationships at the book’s core are traced lightly—the result is a plot that is exciting but wanting. Chanani’s illustrations are colorful but flat; one gets the sense that the narrative would have been far stronger given more space to develop. Shaheen and Tannaz are Muslim and South Asian American; Gio is white; Earl, the jukebox’s creator-owner, is Black, and intercultural interactions are centered in the narrative.
VERDICT An exhilarating though uneven jumble of intriguing concepts, this graphic novel has many elements, musical and interpersonal, that may pique the interest of readers, especially fans of Chanani’s. An additional purchase for larger collections.

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