Bounce Back

Feiwel & Friends. Oct. 2021. 272p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781250768452.
Gr 5-8–Lilico Takada is devastated when her parents decide to move from Osaka, Japan, to New York City. In Osaka, she had wonderful friends and was captain of her school’s championship basketball team, but in New York, she is nervous and knows little English. Lilico tries to connect with the girls on her new school’s basketball team, but they cruelly reject her. She’s rescued by classmates who love Japanese culture—anime, manga, and especially the food—and they help her find the confidence to stand up for herself. Things get better, but Lilico is caught between these friends and her new teammates who don’t get along. Help arrives in the form of her cat Nicco, who is now inhabited by a tough love guardian spirit. Can Lilico bring everyone together? This story hits all the middle school sweet spots—friendship struggles, bullying, popularity, and awkward crushes. Though the book reads Western-style, from left to right, the art features classic manga elements—characters with very expressive faces and large eyes, symbols conveying action or emotion, and tiny pictures with extra commentary, all artfully wedged into the panels. The colors are soft yet vibrant. Untranslated words written with Japanese characters enhance the story. Back matter includes lessons in drawing, creating DIY versions of the characters’ fashions, and learning the Japanese language.
VERDICT Though this book will have special appeal to manga readers, the universal story and engaging art will delight a wide range of middle schoolers.

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