As long-time readers know, I’m not a big fan of the illustrated diary book format. There’s nothing wrong with kids reading them, but I don’t care for them being promoted as comics.
Terri Libenson’s Invisible Emmie does something fun with the concept, though. It combines the illustrated diary format with comics to contrast different approaches to middle school.
Emmie is a regular, everyday kid. She’s not popular, not an outcast, just quiet, and she likes to draw. Going to school makes her nervous and uncomfortable. Her story is told as the diary. Then we switch to comics for the story of Katie, an outgoing student with lots of friends.
Emmie has one best friend, Brianna, but since she’s in the gifted classes, Emmie spends lots of time alone. That’s good for her art, bad for her shyness. Then one day, a note Emmie wrote to her crush — but never intended to deliver — gets misplaced, and Emmie has to deal with being noticed.
In the diary section, the illustrations are cute, particularly with their silly captions, while the comics have minimal backgrounds but plenty of color. Swapping back and forth between the short chapters keeps the reader involved in the events.
I haven’t seen a lot of characters like Emmie before, and I found her refreshing. This is the kind of story many quiet, artistic children will appreciate and perhaps even be inspired by. It’s a nice portrait of how creativity can give us strength and art can help the artist work through growing up.