Book Review: This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamakari

by KellyAnn Bonnell

The best young adult fiction is fiction engages the reader as a partner in the story, trusting its readers’s experiences to provide dimension to the tale. Jillian and Mariko Tamaki are master’s at creating this kind of young adult fiction. They trust that their young readers have the experience to understand the difficult truths of the worlds they create. The result is fiction that is redefining the genre. This One Summer is yet another example of the marriage of image and text that speaks to young people about things that are important to young people. That it is the much anticipated follow up to the critically acclaimed 2008 collaboration, Skim, 


This One Summer is a poignant coming of age tale in the form of a beautifully drawn and realized graphic novel. Each year Rose and her parents spend part of their summer in a cottage on the beach where Rose is able to reunite with her friend Windy. Together, Rose and Windy build sand castles, dig holes, and develop a quiet obsession with Dune, an older boy who works at the corner store. Over the course of the summer, Rose and Windy frequent the corner store to rent horror movies in an attempt to prove their fearlessness to both Dune and each other. The time they spend browsing the store’s meager DVD selection gives them the opportunity to eavesdrop on Dune and his friends, offering them a glimpse of teenage life.

Looking at its mechanics, Mariko’s story telling really shines in this tale. There are many times when she allows Jillian’s imagery to tell the story. It is this complementary  relationship between the words and images that make it so relevant for today’s youth. For those of you unfamiliar with the literary art form of a graphic novel, it’s counter intuitive to text based storytelling.  Graphic novels are about the whole package. The images do not support the story as illustrations do in text based story telling; they partner with the text create the narrative.  You approach it more like you are watching a movie. It’s a skill you students already have. When you tap into it, you’ll find their analysis of the content to be quite in depth.

It you’ve never used graphic novels in your classroom because you thought that they weren’t literature, I challenge you to look at This One Summer.

This is a must have addition to every school library and reading list.



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