The Big Break

Little, Brown. Mar. 2020. 248p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780316440547; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780316440554.
Gr 3-7–A good friend is hard to find, but true friendship stands the test of time, according to Tatulli. The author of the memoir Short & Skinny this time turns to fiction but still demonstrates the same intuitive understanding of children’s angst and insecurities. As part of a video contest, longtime best friends Andrew and Russ are documenting their search for the legendary Jersey Devil. Andrew loves hanging out with his friends, daydreaming, drawing, and being his mom’s little boy. Russ, however, is ready to move on and grow up, and, to Andrew’s horror, he begins dating artsy, first-chair violinist Tara, which drives a wedge between them. But with the help of their other friends Ray, Dante, and Lexa and librarian Miss Robbins, Andrew and Russ learn what real friendship is all about as they all embark on a daring journey to finish their movie. Tatulli conveys the drama of friendship perfectly. His loose, buoyant cartoons and his humorous text make heavy topics easier to digest. Dialogue is spot-on; characters’ use of slang will appeal to readers.
VERDICT With this reassuring graphic novel, Tatulli offers a lifeline to middle schoolers dealing with the trials and tribulations of friendships. His lessons—a newcomer doesn’t always spell disaster for a friendship, and it’s OK to branch out and make new friends—will resonate strongly with middle grade readers.

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