Review of Sylvie

by Sylvie Kantorovitz; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School, High School    Walker US/Candlewick    352 pp.    g
2/21    978-1-5362-0762-0    $24.99
Paper ed.  978-1-5362-0763-7    $16.99

Author-illustrator Kantorovitz’s (Zig and the Magic Umbrella, rev. 5/15) graphic memoir is an engaging and thoughtful story of an observant child who grows into a young adult eager to pursue teaching and art. Kantorovitz and her siblings lived at a teacher-training college in France where her father was the principal. They had the run of the campus, and Sylvie eventually moved into her own private room, a “kingdom” separate from her family’s apartment. Her childhood was marked by her mother’s moods and her high academic expectations for Sylvie — “it doesn’t count if the others also got As.” With relatively few words, Kantorovitz describes her parents’ difficult marriage and the support she received from her father; it was he who encouraged Sylvie’s love of and talent for art. The book’s design is open and friendly. Large cartoon-style illustrations, sometimes just one to a page, are uncluttered and attractive, making them inviting even while they explore difficult themes, including Sylvie’s fear that her Jewish faith will set her apart from her friends and classmates. Even at a hefty 350-plus pages, the book looks so approachable that it will likely attract a wide range of readers who will discover a strong story about navigating family, school, and friendships while finding one’s purpose.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Maeve Visser Knoth

Maeve Visser Knoth is a librarian at Phillips Brooks School, Menlo Park, ­California. She has chaired the Notable Children’s Books Committee and taught at Notre Dame de Namur University and Lesley University.

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