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Review: Stargazing by Jen Wang

Stargazing
By Jen Wang
Color by Lark Pien

FirstSecond (Macmillan)

ISBN: 9781250183880
$12.99 (PBK)
Out September 10, 2019

*Best New Book*

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

Sometimes friendships don’t make sense from the outside. Think about your friends from when you were a kid. Sure there are the pals who were a lot like you, but I’m guessing you had at least a couple who were nothing like you. In Stargazing, Jen Wang delivers a graphic novel that plays on this concept, while introducing an intriguing element of cosmic mystery.

Moon has a bad reputation. But Christine can’t figure out why. Sure the pair are opposites, but when Moon’s family moves next door, they become fast friends. They bond over K-Pop and begin planning a talent show dance routine. But something is a little different about Moon. She sees things. Visions. What’s going on? When their friendship faces a challenge, we learn what’s behind Moon’s visions, and it’s more serious than anyone expected.

In the afterward, Jen Wang describes how this work of fiction has many ties to her real life. She too experienced visions, the root of which mirrors that of Moon. Although this is Wang’s first foray into middle grade (following last year’s excellent The Prince and the Dressmaker), but you’d never know – she’s a natural at capturing the joys, anxieties, and ever-shifting friendship politics of this age. 

Wang’s illustration style is simple and crisp, with clear, thin lines and uncluttered panels. Wang has a particular talent for drawing characters dancing, which happens a number of times in Stargazing. The results seem to move right off the page. Lark Pien’s soft coloring matches this story, which is firmly rooted in reality, yet sometimes moves toward the celestial.

A beautiful graphic novel you can proudly recommend to students who are in the mood for something they can relate to, with a touch of the unexpected. One of the best middle grade comics I’ve read all year.

Review copy from the publisher.

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About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.

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