Review of Big Apple Diaries

Big Apple Diaries
by Alyssa Bermudez; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    Roaring Brook    256 pp.    g
8/21    978-1-250-77428-6    $14.99

Bermudez mined her middle-school diaries to create this appealing debut graphic memoir set in NYC just before and after 9/11. Twelve-year-old Alyssa splits her time between her Puerto Rican dad’s apartment in Manhattan and her Italian American mom’s place in Queens. While her seventh-grade year at St. Ignatius is full of universally relatable middle-school drama (a painful first crush, multiple friendship conflicts, and a cosmetic malfunction — she accidentally shaves off too much of her eyebrows), Alyssa is also a quintessential New Yorker who rides the subway on her own and takes weekend art lessons at the Met. Then her bustling city life is shaken by the 9/11 attack, which takes place at the start of her eighth-grade year. Though she doesn’t suffer a direct loss from the ­tragedy — although her father worked in the World Trade Center, he was not in the building that day — Alyssa’s ideas about herself and the future are upended. The cool blue limited palette of the panels underscores the moodiness of the middle-school years and serves as an effective backdrop to the apple-cheeked and open-faced depictions of Alyssa and her friends and family. Fans of Craft’s New Kid (rev. 1/19), Telgemeier’s Smile, and Hale’s Real Friends (rev. 5/17) will find much to love here.

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jennifer Hubert Swan

Jennifer Hubert Swan is the library department chair and upper school librarian at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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