Smaller Sister

Roaring Brook. May 2022. 320p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781250767417; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781250767424.
Gr 4-7–In this moving graphic novel, sisters Lucy and Olivia find their bond tested as one of them grapples with an eating disorder. Exactly 20 months apart, the girls are sometimes inseparable, though other times big sister Olivia wants Lucy nowhere near her. Lately, Olivia seems agitated, disengaged, and preoccupied with her appearance. Lucy learns that Olivia is anorexic and is seeking help from a team of specialists. As the school year continues, the distance between the girls grows as Olivia balances school, sports, and visits with doctors. Lucy wants her sister to get better, but she also feels the burden of being the healthy sibling who seemingly has it all together. Why is everyone ignoring her? Will she ever fit in at school? Will she get sick as well? There are so many unknowns, but Lucy wants her relationship with Olivia to be restored, especially as they navigate through a new series of life’s challenges. In her debut graphic novel, Willis draws from her own childhood; the result is a resonant and achingly real work, featuring well-developed, imperfect characters. She makes complex themes easily comprehensible for kids, and her digital illustrations are the perfect complement to the narrative, highly detailed and reflective of the story’s changing time line and mood. The author closes with an afterword containing resources for readers seeking further information. Lucy and Olivia are white.
VERDICT Middle grade readers will be utterly absorbed by this heartfelt graphic novel that explores the complexities of family dynamics, body image, and self-acceptance.

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