Sylvie by Sylvie Kantorovitz

Sylvie by Sylvie Kantorovitz.  Walker Books US, 9781536207620, 2021

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Nonfiction – Memoir

What did you like about the book? Kantorovitz takes readers through her early life in France as she navigates life as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, and, most notably, an artist.  As many kids do, Sylvie finds herself exploring new passions and discovering the many complexities in life such as a mother who is both a source of tension and of love, a Jewish heritage that gives her a sense of pride but also often paints her as an outcast as the “only one” in her class, and, overall, an ongoing question of who she’s expected to be and who she wants to be. This hefty graphic novel breaks up childhood into manageable chapters to help shift focus as the author grows up and meets new challenges. As Sylvie reaches her college years, the book comes to a close, leaving readers to wonder what might come next.

This memoir is told using a slice-of-life story method, featuring important times that shaped the author’s life and then moving forward to the next chapter (both literally and figuratively). While there is conflict, drama, and a good dose of humor, it’s never the main focus of the book; instead, Kantorovitz hones in on relatable thoughts, feelings, and moments that will reach readers on a personal level.  The author’s art reinforces this by being simple yet realistic in its execution. The overall effect is a quiet book about discovering oneself and reflection.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  This title will likely need to work to find its audience. Unlike Telgemeier’s dramatized graphic memoirs (and other similar titles that have come after), this one moves at a slower pace, even meandering a bit, and may not resonate with as many readers.

To whom would you recommend this book? This book will be a good fit for upper elementary and middle school readers looking for a calm story. To give readers advisors a bit more to go on, the feel of this book can best be described at Tea Dragon Society by O’Neill for those who crave realism in place of magic.

Who should buy this book? Recommended as a secondary purchase for larger collections.

Where would you shelve it ? J Bio/J graphic novel Bio (as dependant on your collection)

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No, you can skip this one.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Melissa McCleary, Pembroke Public Library, Pembroke, MA

Date of review: March 15, 2021  

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