Heart Takes the Stage: A Heart of the City Collection

Andrews McMeel. (Heart of the City: Bk. 1). May 2022. 208p. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781524871598.
Gr 4-8–Philadelphia-based middle school student Heart Lamarr leads the life of a typical middle-class teen: making new friends; going to sleepovers, parties, and concerts; and begging her mother to let her get her ears pierced. But what she’s most interested in is starring in the next school play, if only she can stay out of detention long enough to audition. This graphic novel is a compilation of strips from the daily syndicate of the same name—created by Mark Tatulli in the late 1990s and taken over by Steenz in 2020—which gives it a page-by-page episodic feel, while also maintaining a longer story arc that is sporadically interrupted by an out-of-sequence, single panel. However, because the source material is an ongoing story, the graphic novel ends abruptly. The characters are modernized and older than who they debuted as in the 1990s, but Heart doesn’t stray far from the mostly harmless rascal-next-door character popularized by comics of yore (Dennis the Menace, Calvin and Hobbes, etc.). Blues, gray, and beige dominate, with pops of warm colors (red, pink, orange) that complement the minimalist backgrounds and solid line work, as well as the characters’ rounded, full designs. Characters are diverse in terms of body type and LGBTQIA+ representation. Heart is white, her friend Charlotte is Black, and some background characters present as BIPOC, though many appear to be white.
VERDICT Readers who enjoy slice-of-life stories that focus on friendship will appreciate Heart’s story, which subtly and naturally offers positive diverse representation.

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