- Title:Gutsby Raina Telgemeier, 978-0-545-85251-7- Scholastic, Inc. 2019, 208 pp.
- Genre: Non-Fiction/ Graphic Novel
- Characters: The main character is the adolescent version of Raina Telgemeier. She is a 5th-grade girl that enjoys drawing, Girl Scouts, and spending time with friends. Raina shares a small two-bedroom apartment with her parents (who have interesting eating habits), younger sister and brother (who share a room with Raina), and for a short time, her grandmother (who talks non-stop). Major characters in the book include Raina’s classmates Michelle and Julie. Michelle fills the role of antagonist by verbally bullying Raina and her friends and tormenting them with what can best be described as “bathroom humor.” Michelle also instigates jokes and troubling nicknames directed at other kids in the school. Although several friends make appearances, Raina’s best friend, Julie, is central to the story. Julie is an Asian American girl who enjoys sharing her family’s culinary traditions with her friends and shares Raina’s love of comics and Girl Scouts. Mr. Abrams and his engaging teaching style makes him all the girls’ favorite teacher. He is often the moderator of the conflict between Raina and Michelle and his engaging teaching style. Lauren is Raina’s therapist. Her process of engaging Raina in therapy parallels the teaching style of Mr. Abrams.
- Plot: As Raina gets into the swing of fifth grade, she begins to experience stomach troubles. After some investigating, Raina and her mother begin to suspect the root cause is anxiety. Once she discovers the cause of her stomach problems Raina becomes aware of the cause of much of her anxiety. Raina’s family causes a lot of her anxiety. She shares a two-bedroom apartment (with ONE bathroom!) with her parents and younger brother and sister. To add to the stress, Raina’s grandmother joins them for a few months. Grandma is quite a talker, and soon Raina feels like she can’t get any alone time. Raina typically finds relief at school with her friends and her favorite teacher, Mr. Abrams. Unfortunately, school is no longer the refuge it once was. Raina is forced to sit next to her own personal mean girl, Michelle. And the worst part, Mr. Abrams doesn’t even notice when Michelle antagonizes Raina, but always seems to catch Raina when she reacts to the awful treatment she receives from Michelle. As if this isn’t bad enough, Raina has to make a presentation in front of her entire class. When Raina decides to give up and live the rest of her life under the covers of her bed, her mother schedules her for a therapy visit. Just one. Just to see if she likes it. Raina’s nervousness turns to relief when her new therapist utters just one word to her: “Try.” Through working with her therapist, Raina slowly finds the words she needs to express her anxiety and begins to try new coping skills to deal with these difficult feelings.
- Touchy Areas: While the book is very discreet about the puberty changes females go through, one girl comes out and states that she started her period. I had to dodge the, “what’s a period,” question from my fourth-grade son.
- Related Titles: Real Friendsby Shannon Hale;Sunny Side Upby Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm; Awkwardby Svetlana Chmakova
- Movies:Wonder Park(2019); Inside Out(2015); The Secret Life of Walter Mitty(2013)
Poem: “Mind, Body, and Anxiety” by Kyla Macks https://www.booksie.com/498180-mind-body-and-anxiety
Classic Work: The Bell Jarby Sylvia Plath
Art: The Screamby Edvard Munch
8., Evaluation: My children and I are big fans of Raina Telgemeier, and she hit it out of the ballpark once again. Gutsis another memoir and is publicized as a companion to Smile and Sisters. You do not have to read the other books to understand the plot. This book is an excellent stand-alone. My son and I both deal with anxiety and Gutshas helped us communicate a little better about our condition. The end of the book helps normalize therapy, and now my son doesn’t feel so alone and embarrassed about having to go to therapy. I recommend reading the Author’s Note at the end of the book. Telgemeier gives a short blurb about how dealing with her anxiety is a long road, but worth the work. This book is excellent for your middle grade students that may be dealing with anxiety issues, and does important work with normalizing therapy and coping skills.