Review of Guts

by Raina Telgemeier; illus. by the author; color by Braden Lamb
Intermediate    Graphix/Scholastic    215 pp.    g
9/19    978-0-545-85251-7    $24.99
Paper ed.  978-0-545-85250-0    $12.99
e-book ed.  978-0-545-85253-1    $7.99

In this graphic memoir chronicling her fourth-grade year, Telgemeier (Smile; Sisters, rev. 11/14) shares her childhood experiences with anxiety. A bout with a stomach bug ushers in emetophobia (fear of vomiting), leaving young Raina trembling and plagued by digestion issues during moments of insecurity, as when making a class presentation. As her phobia worsens, she starts missing school, limiting what she eats, and engaging in compulsive behaviors to self-soothe and manage her loss of self-control. Her parents take her to a therapist, who guides her in coping with her phobia and panic attacks. Sensitively capturing the traumas of anxiety (“Can you be sick even if you’re not sick? Can you be healthy even if you hurt?” Raina wonders), Telgemeier also addresses the insecurities of tween female friendships, the stigma of therapy, and the onset of puberty. She expertly uses scale and perspective to animate the terror of panic attacks; in one bile-colored spread, Raina falls through the very floor tiles, gasping and screaming. There’s a fair amount of bodily-function humor — the book’s last panel features a big “FARRRRRT!” — but it’s never at the expense of the book’s serious subject matter. In a closing note, Telgemeier recommends that readers experiencing anxiety talk to a trusted adult and acknowledges that her own anxiety is ongoing but manageable, “just part of who I am.”

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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