In Review: Guts

Fears in a fourth grader are explored with emotion and humor.

Guts by Raina Telgemeier 

Published by Graphix, an Imprint of Scholastic. on September 17, 2019. Jacketed hardcover of 224 at $24.99. Paperback at $12.99. Ebook available at $7.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7.

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may change by publication.

The cover: On a violet background a yellow smiley face is not smiling. Its eyes have bugged out and it is sticking out its tongue. It looks sick. Above the yellow face is the author’s name in thin black font and below it is the title of the book in larger white letters. Simple and direct, just like Telgemeier’s previous books. It’s an eye catcher and for those who’ve been following her other books, they’ll recognize this face and run to it. Plus, the emotion of the face is a major hint at what can be found within. Very smart. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the back cover, “Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away…and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on? Raina Telegemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.” This is another autobiographical based story from Telgemeier. I’ve enjoyed her previous books, so I’m interested to see where she’s taking the reader now. Overall grade: A

The characters: Fourth grader Raina is having some major issues and she doesn’t know why. She throws up in the middle of the night, but she’s not sick. She sees vomit or hears someone discuss it and her stomach starts to turn. Speaking before her class for a presentation has her freeze up and run from the room. Going to the doctor shows she’s perfectly fine. The cause of all these troubles is the mystery of this book. Spoiler: by the end of the book she’s able to manage her discomfort. Raina’s mother wants to do everything to she can to help her daughter and she’s the one that accompanies her to see Lauren on page 70. Jane is Raina’s best friend at school and in her class. They share everything, except Raina doesn’t tell her about her problems. Jane does something on 160 that complicates Raina’s situation. Michelle is Raina’s enemy. The girl is in her class and never misses an opportunity to belittle her in and out of the room. Something occurs on 160 that increases Raina’s discomfort and ire. Mr. Abrams is Raina’s teacher and he does all that he can to treat each student fairly, but it’s difficult since Raina blurts out things, especially how Michelle is creating problems. Lauren is the adult who helps Raina out. She doesn’t appear until Page 70. Meeting with her several times, Raina gets to healing. All of these characters are engaging and real. Overall grade: A+

The settings: Raina’s home, school, and Lauren’s office are the primary settings. The young protagonist has quite the active family, juggling work with taking care of the kids. It’s always bustling and dinner is exactly the way my house is now. As a school teacher I can vouch for this being an accurate school setting. This location is set up exactly as a school would be; the playground and lunch areas are particularly on point. Lauren’s office is what I would expect and resembles one shown in a variety of media. Each of these settings is wholly believable. Overall grade: A+

The action: The primary sources of action are all the issues that occur to Raina. They are the fears that any child has at some point. Heck, I could relate to her fears! Her interactions with her classmates are on point, and I remember witnessing a similar event in my past that occurs to a child on Page 9. The tension of the book is whether Raina will learn what’s wrong with her and how to overcome it. This was a page turner to be sure. Overall grade: A+

The art: Raina Telgemeier’s previous work has been lauded for not only the stories by the visuals and deservedly so. The characters and settings look great, but I really like Pages 20 – 23, 75, 87, 120, 150 – 153, 189 – 191, and 199. All but three of these pages show Raina succumbing to her fears. As I read this graphic novel I tried to think how such fears could solely be written in text to communicate the ideas of the story and I don’t think it would be possible for the intended audience. Thankfully, Telgemeier has elected to make this an illustrated tale and her visions of her younger self’s discomfort are ones that any reader can relate to. The trio of pages that stood out that don’t relate to fears are 189 – 191. These pages communicate without any text a change in Raina and they are flawless. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The colors by Braden Lamb are perfect: bright and real, with a strong dash of green for whenever Raina is feeling discomfort. His work also directs the reader where to look, with the colors of characters brighter than the backgrounds they’re drawn against. He’s a perfect match for Telegemeier’s work. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: This book ends with hope for Raina that she’ll continue to be able to battle her fears. The book’s title is mentioned on Page 209 and it’s perfect. If some think the book has gotten too heavy, the final panel on 213 more than makes up for that. Additionally, after thanks from the author, there’s a note that’s a page and half long that tells her readers what inspired this tale. It’s not necessary to enjoy this story, though it does strengthen it. It’s the perfect ending piece. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Fears in a fourth grader are explored with emotion and humor. This is accessible to all ages because of its relevant story that anyone can relate to and its wonderful visuals. My review is simple: get Guts. Overall grade: A+ 

To order a print copy go to https://shop.scholastic.com/parent-ecommerce/books/guts-9780545852500.html

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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