HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Jun. 2021. 208p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780062972798; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9780062972781.
Gr 4-8–Middle school student Hudi has become a regular at his local hospital, due to a variety of injuries and other health issues, including losing a lung. His doctors and parents are fearful that his weight isn’t helping his health, so, despite a lack of interest and natural ability, he finds himself thrust into the world of team sports. But Hudi’s humor and imagination keep him going—along with support from his imaginary mascot, Chunky, a chipper, furry, horned pink creature who calls himself Hudi’s “biggest fan”—as life at home with his family becomes more stressful. Drawing from his childhood experiences, Mercado’s memoir emphasizes his humor and creativity as his younger self tries to figure out who he is and how he fits in, using jokes to cope with fatphobic adults in his life. Linework is strong and steady, with tropical golden and green tones punctuated by the deep but radiant magenta hues used to illustrate Hudi’s pal Chunky. Mercado relies on a variety of panel layouts, borderless panels, and perspectives to keep the eye moving, and each chapter ends with a fun fourth-wall breaking postgame wrap-up. Hudi is Mexican and Jewish, while secondary and background characters present as Black and white.
VERDICT Mercado offers relatable insights into the life of a child who is eager to fit in but also coming into his sense of self, sometimes with the help of adults and sometimes in spite of them. A compelling coming-of-age memoir.

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