The Popularity Papers, Vol. 1
written by Amy Ignatow
Fifth-graders and best friends Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang have decided that their last year of elementary school is also their last year to be at the bottom of the social heap. In junior high, they will be part of the popular crowd! But they’re not quite sure just how to do that, so they decide to observe the girls who are already popular and see how they do it. Their research notes are carefully recorded in a journal that soon turns into a chronicle of how their work drove them apart…and brought them back together again.
Ignatow’s charming story is a creative mix of illustrations and text, not quite a graphic novel, but definitely fun. Lydia and Julie have distinctive handwriting and once readers get the hang of which one is which, they’ll enjoy following along with the friends’ adventures. At first the girls have a simple goal—to be more popular—but their work soon changes as they begin to learn more about the people around them. They add in attempts to catch the eyes of cute boys, the trials of learning a new sport, the problems of having a mean nickname (“Goldbladder”) or being teased about having two dads, and other tween-age issues. Their exploits are funny in a Judy Blume kind of way, slightly over-the top, but still believable enough for readers to identify with. Occasionally the girls sound slightly older than they actually are—more seventh grader than fifth—but it’s a sure bet that the target audience won’t mind those few lapses.
The illustrations in the journal are drawn by Julie and Ignatow is careful to make them look like they were done by a fifth-grader, albeit a talented one. She uses colored pencils and colored markers along with kid-type paper such as lined notebook paper. Lydia, who always writes in school cursive, uses a blue ballpoint pen and is not good at drawing. It is touches like these that bring Ignatow’s story to life. Those elements, combined with her funny, enjoyable story and an eye-catching cover, should make this one a tween girl pleaser, for both graphic novel and prose fans.-- Snow Wildsmith