This month's pick for pre-teen readers is Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Inspired by Shannon's childhood, this full-color graphic novel chronicles her elementary school experiences with new friends, old friends, best friends, and fair-weather friends. At school, she struggles to find her place in a clique known as "The Group"; at home, as the third of five children, she feels invisible, overlooked and unheard. She often escapes into vivid daydreams and dreams of writing her own stories.
Shannon does not flinch away from including uncomfortable moments - not just embarrassing ones, but also hurtful verbal arguments and physical altercations - and private struggles with anxiety, compulsions, and self-image. LeUyen Pham's artwork, with color by Jane Poole, is expressive and lively. Happier scenes of the kids acting out their own versions of Wonder Woman and Charlie's Angels will ring true to anyone who loved to play pretend -- and who longed to be their own hero.
From the author's note at the end of the book: "If you haven't found your own 'group' yet, hang in there - You deserve to have real friends, the kind who treat you well and get how amazing you are."