Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song

Oni Pr. Aug. 2023. 208p. pap. $24.99. ISBN 9781637152232.
Gr 7-10–A new voice in graphic novels for teens, Paramore has scored big with a sweet magical mystery featuring Malcolm Kid, an average teen with a love of music. His keyboard broke at school and his friend January feels bad, so they travel to a suspicious storefront at night to get a new one. The eccentric man inside gives Malcolm a free keyboard, but upon falling asleep that night, Malcolm is haunted by an older man whose soul needs releasing. January takes it home and experiences the same ghost, but they decide together that this is a mystery they can solve, and it includes playing the perfect song. The quest to find the perfect song brings Malcolm closer to his dad; finding it also allows him to spend time with January as they learn about his family history and the jazz music scene. To this balanced story add the art as Bollinger layers the moving pieces in an approachable, realistic fashion even when protagonists learn about the past. Those visual cues create continuity and depth alongside the earth-toned colors of the book as a whole. In addition, the panel placement adds its own movement. Plus the emotive expressions, especially Malcolm’s, deepen the love for each character’s journey, ending with a positive outcome from a complicated past he didn’t know he had.
VERDICT A predictable but comfortable graphic novel that stands out from others with a strong story and style, Paramore’s debut is a solid purchase featuring a Black male protagonist.

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