100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Review: Meanwhile by Jason Shiga

By Jason Shiga
Amulet Books
ISBN: 9780810984233
Grades 4-7
In Stores

*Best New Books*

I have a problem. I’m not sure what to do when faced with a book like Meanwhile – 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 it’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 I’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 don’t read left to right, up to down, but in all manner of directions. The reader’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 “solve” 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.

Click here (or the image below) to see an image-laden post about the evolution of the Meanwhile cover on Mishaps and Adventures.

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 scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. It’s been a while since a book review has put me on the edge of my seat. Literally! (Okay, figuratively.) I can’t imagine a scenario where controlled complexity, interaction, problem-solving, and panels that look like spaghetti could add up to anything but a surefire win. Thanks for the review.

  2. Went directly to the bookstore after reading your review and Chad’s post. So excited to get started! Between this and Stephen Emond’s Happyface (think John Green meets diary of a wimpy kid…anything less than a Printz would be a disappointment) and March is shaping up to be a great month for graphic novels.

  3. I had the same questions when I bought this book for my library. I think it will really be interesting to see who picks it up and sticks with it long enough to “figure it out.” It definately was not my particular cup of tea, but I can see how some of my students who love graphic novels and solving riddles may become a fan.

  4. I agree with Amy, I can’t imagine a scenario where this book wouldn’t be popular. I purchased it for my school library and I can’t wait to hear from the readers.

  5. Oooh, I love Jason Shiga! How did I miss this? I saw him in 2003 at SPX and he had these incredible handmade comics like this. Each page had hand cut tabs and it was incredibly complicated stuff so he had a very limited # so I missed out because I hesitated. I’m glad to see I have another chance to experience something like this from him (maybe it’s even the same book?).

  6. I’m also commenting to let you be aware of what a extraordinary discovery my cousin’s girl enjoyed studying your webblog. She realized a wide variety of pieces, most notably what it is like to have a great coaching heart to get most people without problems grasp some grueling matters. You actually did more than our expectations. Thanks for churning out the essential, healthy, informative and easy thoughts on your topic to Kate.