Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers: The Things She's Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Operatic

Mr. K's final assignment for his middle-school music class is the "Soundtrack of My Life Presentation," in which each student must "choose a song for this moment in your life and write about it." Mr. K enables and enlightens his musical explorers by exposing them to artists as diverse as Patti Smith and A-Ha, and genres as different as bluegrass and punk rock.

For Charlotte Noguchi, aka Charlie, Mr. K's lessons become a catalyst for deep self-reflection. Learning about "Emo" makes her recall her friend Luka, and why he's been missing from school for two weeks. Opera takes her by utter surprise: "It's enough to make me forget everything around me." Her immersive reaction leads her to choose Maria Callas for her "Soundtrack" assignment. Her extensive research about Callas's difficult life encourages Charlie to "[refuse] to be small or ignored" and to admit she wants "to do big things" in her life.

Award-winning Canadian author Kyo Maclear (The Liszts) turns to the graphic novel format in this collaboration with Canadian artist Byron Eggenschwiler (Coyote Tales). Operatic is a spectacular, cleverly intertwined, three-part narrative comprised of Charlie's coming-of-age, Luka's backstory and a compelling Callas biography. For each of the stories, Eggenschwiler assigns distinguishing hues--yellow for Charlie, blue for Luka and red for Callas. The colors overlap when stories momentarily converge, such as Luka's blue desk sitting in Mr. K's golden classroom. Combining enchanting art, mellifluous music and just the right words, Maclear and Eggenschwiler provide a marvelous composition guaranteed to resonate. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon