The autobiography assignment I don t pretend to know precisely why teachers give it out or what they hope child readers will get out of it About ten years ago, when I was a children s librarian in New York City, it was to be feared A small child would walk into my room, belly up to the reader s advisory desk, and ask for an autobiography You mean a biography No of course not, silly librarian An AUTObiography, see And there, clear as crystal, was the printed assignment So like any good librarian I d take the child to the biography autobiography section and we d start to hunt and peck As it happens, middle grade authors of books for kids really like writing autobiographies So depending on the age of the child I d load them down with Knots in My Yo Yo String by Jerry Spinelli or Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher or maybe one of the Beverly Cleary ones like A Girl From Yamhill Not like there was a lot to pick and choose from Then, like magic, something changed overnight Authors started writingautobiographies and, glory be, they were done in a graphic novel format Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, Sunny Side Up by Jenni Holm, El Deafo by Cece Ball, and The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley Sure, there aren t a ton of these books out there, but they sure pep up the autobiography assignment, I can assure you of that Now Shannon Hale joins the illustrious crew with a book that zeroes in a single topic friendship The good The bad The seriously why is this so freaking DIFFICULT When you re really little, making friends is easy You sit next to someone in Kindergarten and suddenly they re your best friend for all time For Shannon, Adrienne was that friend Yet when third grade rolled around, things started to change Suddenly Shannon, Adrienne, a popular girl named Jen, and a whole bunch of other girls are in The Group That includes Jenny, Jen s best friend and a dyed in the wool bully to Shannon Figuring out if she s out or in can be exhausting for Shannon, and that s before you even consider her violently unpredictable older sister Wendy or her own OCD But that s the thing about true friends sometimes They sure as heck don t come easy.In her Author s Note at the end Shannon says that Real Friends it he story I ve been telling myself about my elementary school years, yet also acknowledges that memories aren t 100 percent accurate She mentions that the idea of writing a memoir was a relatively recent one considering the fact that from a drama perspective she had a pretty stable home life That, naturally, is the allure With Real Friends Hale zeroes in on a single aspect of childhood friendship It s something a lot of kids have to contend with In her own Author s Note, artist LeUyen Pham says her heart, is still convinced that somehow you Shannon crawled inside my memories and handpicked all these events and feelings and insecurities from my childhood and called them your own I think that s the true allure of the title This is a mirror for a lot of kids who are struggling with friendships They re going to see what LeUyen saw and feel it too There was a movement not too long ago where people on YouTube let teens know that it gets better Shannon s message is the same As she puts it, If you haven t found your group yet, hang in there Your world will keep growing larger and wider You deserve to have real friends, the kind who treat you well and get how amazing you are But how do you do it How do you take faulty memories and etched in stone feelings from the past and turn them into a book On a recent episode of the podcast RadioLab, a lot of discussion was made of the fact that to even access memories, a person needs a lot of imagination The same could be said of conjuring up memories for a graphic novel Hindsight may be 20 20 but memory is 3 10 Sometimes it s necessary to plug the details up with creativity In a way, Shannon probably had a lot of this book mapped out in her head already Dwell on something enough and you turn it into a story, complete with dramatic shifts in tension and morality I particularly appreciated the moments when Shannon, the character, was in the wrong This book doesn t usually break down into good and bad people, but rather into the casual indifferent cruelties of childhood The off handed comment you don t even remember saying that burned a small hole into your friend s soul The fact that Shannon s just as capable of this as anyone gives the book a bit of extra weight.There s one other aspect of the book that sets it apart from the pack Heck, sets it apart from pretty much every children s graphic novel from a trade publisher I ve ever seen religion Shannon grew up in a Mormon household and so religion is just a regular event in her life We see prayer, Sunday scriptures, and the occasional Jesus cameo when Shannon is feeling particularly down in the dumps The only other middle grade graphic novel comics for 9 12 year olds I ve ever seen from a large publisher that incorporates worship as seamlessly would be the books in the Hereville series by Barry Deutsch, and that was Hasidic Someone once commented that the only sitcom you see on your television these days where a family regularly goes to church is The Simpsons In children s books that topic is almost entirely regulated to small religious presses So I appreciate that Real Friends doesn t shy away from something that, for a lot of people, is a regular part of life.And now, a word in praise of LeUyen Pham Pham and Hale are hardly strangers to one another For years now they ve collaborated together on the delightful Zorro esque Princess in Black series That said, I haven t seen Ms Pham do a graphic novel since she worked on the far older Prince of Persia back in 2008 They take a bit of time to do, after all What s , all the autobiographical graphic novels I mentioned at the beginning of this review were written and illustrated by the same person always excepting Sunny Side Up which is a brother sister team If you bring in an artist to basically illustrate your life, you want someone you can trust Good thing Ms Pham is a stickler with accuracy When she illustrated the nonfiction biography about Paul Erdos The Boy Who Loved Math she went so far as to clarify in her Illustrator s Note at the end that she had to imagine the physical appearance of the boy s nanny Real Friends isn t nonfiction in the strict sense of the word Characters are combined, timelines are moved up, and names are definitely changed Still, just looking at the setting you really feel you re in the 1980s Pham s attention to detail is given full reign, whether you re checking out the computers, the clothes oh the clothes, the clothes, the clothes or even the furniture Not that it s all coke bottle glasses and Thompson Twins There s enough pretend and imagination in these storylines to allow Pham to really stretch her muscles and engage in spy sequences, fantastical journeys, and even the occasional Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader.In many ways the book Real Friends feels the closest to in terms of content and tone is El Deafo by Cece Bell Both books are quests for true friendship Both take place in the past though Bell s is probably set eight or so years before Hale s And both are autobiographical memoirs that look at bad friendships, hurt feelings, and the ultimate reward that all kids can relate to a good friend A fun strong book to show kids that even when you haven t got a real friend in the world, there s a light at the end of the tunnel For ages 9 12. Newbery Honor Author Shannon Hale And New York Times Bestselling Illustrator LeUyen Pham Join Forces In This Graphic Memoir About How Hard It Is To Find Your Real Friends And Why It S Worth The JourneyWhen Best Friends Are Not ForeverShannon And Adrienne Have Been Best Friends Ever Since They Were Little But One Day, Adrienne Starts Hanging Out With Jen, The Most Popular Girl In Class And The Leader Of A Circle Of Friends Called The Group Everyone In The Group Wants To Be Jen S , And Some Girls Would Do Anything To Stay On Top Even If It Means Bullying OthersNow Every Day Is Like A Roller Coaster For Shannon Will She And Adrienne Stay Friends Can She Stand Up For Herself And Is She In The Group Or Out Perfect for a 10 year old, Real Friends looks at the complex relationships among elementary school girls It teaches readers that good friends don t treat you badly.It also delves into the thorny issues of sibling abuse and rivalry, bullying and crushes.I liked Real Friends not only for its story, but also for the way that it allowed me to connect with my child We read the book together and shared our thoughts on friendships.The author, Shannon Hale, based this book on her real life experiences She includes snapshots from her own childhood on the last couple of pages.It is a great graphic novel for young readers Highly recommended. I ve had my eye on this graphic novel memoir set in the 80s for awhile now, so I was beyond keen on getting my reading on I sped through this thrilling ride in one big whirlwind When best friends are not foreverShannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen s 1, and some girls would do anything to stay on topeven if it means bullying others.Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon Will she and Adrienne stay friends Can she stand up for herself And is she in The Group or out This book, to be honest, made me feel utterly frightened for my nine year old sister Like, what kind of fresh hell is going on in the American education system where the amount of bullying Shannon went through in the fourth grade was completely overlooked to the point of oblivion.This is frightening The amount of pain and suffering school can bring to a child made me that feel sure about my decision to homeschool.I was then also gobsmacked by the abuse Shannon experienced at the hands of her older sister, looking to alleviate her own pain by putting it all on this little girl I mean, if it s unacceptable to hit a nine year old stranger, then it sure as hell is unacceptable to hit your own sister.I m still shellshocked at this panel This poor kid experienced utter terror in her own home Shannon ran to hide just at the sound of Wendy s voice and that had me nearly in tears.Please, treat your younger siblings with all the love and respect you have.Shannon s perspective gave us a very keen look on her girlhood, and it made me understand certain outbursts kids might have with aclear eye Like, when she was playing with her siblings and starts crying when caught, not at her loss but at the overwhelming build up of emotions from feeling left out It made me remember that kids tearing up isn t usually about the situation at hand but about something much deeper in their heads that only they have the knowledge about And it s our jobs to show them that they can trust us enough to share their thoughts On auplifting note, Real Friends has some incredible art that I d like to highlight by sharing a few favorite panels of mine Note I m anAffiliate If you re interested in buying Real Friends , just click on the image below to go through my link I ll make a small commissionSupport creators you love Buy a Coffee for nat bookspoils with Ko fi.com bookspoils This review andcan be found on my blog. Friendship in younger years can be especially hard because our worlds are small If you haven t found your group yet, hang in there Your world will keep growing larger and wider You deserve to have real friends, the kind who treat you well and get how amazing you are I didn t realize this was a memoir about Hale s elementary school years That made it all theawesome I hate cliques, so I could relate to Shannon s loneliness when her best friend joins the group I sometimes wish I could go back in time to grade school as the person I am now, and just not care so much about what people thought But like Hale quoted above, that s just the way we understand things when we are young Sometimes we have to remind ourselves as adults that we deserve friends that will treat us kindly Highly recommend to everyone Accurate to the point of heartbreaking, this is a very honest look at the complexities of friendship and family dynamics Some of this felt like it was copied from my Cabbage Kid Diary, some of it made me grateful that it never happened to me Such an important read for kids and parents This is a good one to have the whole family read and discuss, not forgetting the author s note at the back And of course the art is just amazing, love LeUyen s work Just stunning. I got this graphic memoir from the library for my 5th grader I can t believe I have a 5th grader She has the kindest heart, she is much smarter, funnier, andathletic than I ever recall being ever but guess what I still hear reports about girls calling her weird, about girls forming groups, about the timeless, treacherous terrain of elementary school friendship Children today are educated about bullying and my girl puts up with nothing, but at the end of the day, we all just want to feel loved and valued I love this book for putting it all out there and presenting a relatable tale that explores the ups and downs of making friends for this age group The illustrations were fantastic and offset what was overall a pretty sad but realistic story The Author s Note adds some clarity and depth, while driving home the core message that everyone deserves kind friends who appreciate them.Tomorrow my oldest friend is coming down with her teen girls We have been best friends since junior high I always remind my daughter when she has had a rough day that the truest gems aren t easy to findand I tell her that I m not friends with a single person I knew in elementary school, but my closest friends are spun gold I can t wait to discuss this book with my daughter I will edit my review to add her thoughts 4 stars Following little Shannon s life from kindergarten through fifth grade, Real Friends captures the emotional roller coaster ride of friendship, from navigating the tricky waters of cliques and bullies to her never ending struggle to stay in The Group Shannon s honest and heartfelt story reminds us of how hard it was to learn what real friends are and why finding them is worth the journey. i really liked the plot illustrations in this book i think it moved at a nice pace and it was a fun, easy read. Although I do have to admit that I probably would have enjoyed Shannon Hale s autobiographical middle grade Real Friends considerablyin a non graphic novel format mostly because I do think that LeUyen Pham s accompanying artwork, whilst bright and descriptive, were and are just a bit too cartoony for my own aesthetic tastes and perhaps also my present mood , I have indeed found Real Friends both engaging and evocative and also very much and in a painful manner reminiscent of my own childhood and how difficult and fraught with emotional turmoil making and keeping friends could be, and that school with its cliques often was anything but enjoyable, often at best somewhat problematic, with bullying especially being a constant spectre And while therefore I actually have found much of Real Friendsthan a bit too close for comfort and thus a reading experience that I have personally found not all that pleasant in and of itself, I still very much appreciate Shannon Hale s candour and that she has basically opened up her soul and her memories to write a personal account of her childhood and the issues she had to face both at school and at home something that likely must have been difficult, but might also have felt liberating Now I do have to admit that part of me does rather chafe at the fact that in Real Friends, when it is obvious that Shannon is being both verbally and sometimes even physically tormented by her older sister Wendy, her mother basically seems to just walk away and tell Shannon that she is on her own so to speak For while by the end of Real Friends and after also having perused the included author s note , I do have muchof an understanding of Wendy and why she behaves and acts in the manner she does and has been, and even if I do appreciate the ending of Real Friends in so far that Wendy and Shannon seem to finally be willing and able to call somewhat of a truce and have a bitacceptance and understanding of and for one another, I still do believe that considering how much of Wendy s anger and her outbursts at Shannon often were physically violent, that really, and for both Wendy s and Shannon s sake, the mother should have been muchproactive but then again, I also very much consider Shannon Hale s honesty both refreshing and necessary, and that telling even younger readers the truth about bullying, about abuse, about family dysfunction and the like is most certainly much much better than pretending it away, making light of, not mentioning it.