Review: Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
I have a problem. Iâ€™m not sure what to do when faced with a book like Meanwhile â€“ a choose-your-own-adventure-style graphic novel. How do you review a book without a set beginning, middle, and end? How do you approach a book that required a homemade computer algorithm to structure? While itâ€™s hard to define in concrete terms, Meanwhile is an original – a book that begs to be picked up, figured out, and enjoyed.
One element that is the same for every reader is the first page, where our dark-haired protagonist Jimmy has a decision to make: chocolate or vanilla ice cream. After that choice is made, the story splinters into (literally) thousands of different directions. Jimmy meets scientist Professor K, inventor of devices that have the ability to read minds, travel through time, and possibly kill every living thing on the planet. Testing these inventions leads to trouble, and Jimmy is forced into life or death situations that leave him (and the reader) trying to figure a way out.
The layout of Meanwhile is like no other book Iâ€™ve seen. I found myself handing it to people and saying, “take a look at this”. The shiny, tabbed pages (coated in plastic to increase durability, I assume) each sport a different soft hue, helping readers navigate. The interconnectedness of the story means that panels donâ€™t read left to right, up to down, but in all manner of directions. The readerâ€™s eyes are guided by tubes that run from one panel to the next, and then off the page onto a new tab that must be flipped to.
The level of interaction here is extremely high. Truely, the success of Meanwhile will rely on the readers willingness to â€œsolveâ€ the book. When dead ends arise, readers must start over from the beginning. Some will love this challenge, others may not dig the repetition.
Alert your young puzzle solvers, mathematicians, and the scientific-minded. They have a new riddle to solve.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
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 email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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