I wanted to read this book both because it was an award-winner (see below), and because it appeared on the 2016 ACLU of Texas Banned Books Report. It was challenged in an elementary school for being "inappropriate for grade levels." Its use was restricted by transferring it to the high schools in the district (I'm assuming there was more than one copy of the book, because I know the district in question has two high schools).
In this case, I think that was a good decision. This is an excellent book, but it is not really appropriate for most younger children (at least not in a school situation where a parent can't be involved in the decision). Even author Mariko Tamaki told School Library Journal (after a similar challenge in Florida) that the book was “listed as being for readers ranging 12–18. It contains depictions of young people talking about, and dealing with, adult things.” It was also challenged in a K-12 school library in Minnesota.
This book won both a 2015 Printz Honor award (as it "exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature") and Caldecott Honor award (a runner-up to the "illustrator of the year's most distinguished American picture book for children"). It also won the 2015 Eisner Award ("for creative achievement in American comic books") and the 2014 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel.
It's understandable that the book wound up in elementary school libraries. Many such libraries routinely purchase Caldecott Medal and Honor books, which are typically picture books aimed at elementary school ages. However, the definition in the Caldecott Medal manual of the Association for Library Service to Children of the American Library Association is:
A “picture book for children” is one for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen and picture books for this entire age range are to be considered.
This graphic novel does address some more mature themes, such as teen pregnancy, drinking, sex, and miscarriage, and has some "cuss" words. It's hard to tell how old Rose, the main character is - maybe about 12? Definitely no older than 14. She and her parents have been visiting their beach cabin community every summer since she was little, and Rose always gets together there with Windy, a girl who is a year-and-a-half younger. Windy looks (and acts) age 12 at most. This particular summer, though, Rose's parents are fighting, and there is drama among the youth in the nearby year-round community.
All of the illustrations (by the author's cousin Jilliam Tamaki) are rendered in black-and-white. The reading level (according to the Accelerated Reader program) is 2.4, making the book appropriate for struggling middle and high school readers.
© Amanda Pape - 2016
[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]