Adding This One Summer to Your Library or Classroom Collection

coverThe recent announcement of the Caldecott Medal winner and honorees has many people rushing to pick up the books for their library and classroom collections. Graphic novel This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki broke boundaries by becoming the first graphic novel to make the short list for the Caldecott Medal.

Unfortunately, the Caldecott honor yielded an unforeseen negative outcome: Since the announcement of the Caldecott honor, CBLDF has been confidentially involved in monitoring challenges to This One Summer in various communities. As a result, we’re presenting these resources for librarians and educators to use to justify and defend the addition of This One Summer to library and classroom collections.

How could an award cause trouble?

The American Library Association describes the Caldecott Medal as an award that “shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year.” The Medal has been awarded to illustrators since 1938, and while it is only given to one book, the Caldecott committee also recognizes the “runners-up” as Caldecott Honor Books.

The Caldecott Medal and Honor are given to illustrators whose work is suitable for children up to 14 years of age. An examination of past Caldecott winners and honorees reveals that most of the recipients created books for the younger end of the age range. In the last ten years alone, about 82% of Caldecott winners have been aimed at audiences age 8 and younger. As a result, many people have the expectation that Caldecott winners and honorees are meant for the youngest readers.

Comics are breaking new ground with the recognition of This One Summer by the Caldecott committee. This One Summer is absolutely eligible and deserving of the Caldecott honor, but problems arise when people order the book based on its award pedigree rather than familiarity with the subject matter and intended audience. A few people, believing the book is aimed at younger readers because it is a Caldecott Honor Book, have been shocked to find that the award winning graphic novel is intended for audiences age 12 and up.

How can I defend my decision to include This One Summer in my collection?

This One Summer is a touching coming-of age story that focuses on Rose and Windy, two long-time friends just entering adolescence. The story focuses on Rose in particular as she navigates her changing relationship with Windy, observes the relationships among local teens, and begins to recognize the strife in her parents’ own relationship.

Artist Jillian Tamaki describes This One Summer, which she co-created with her cousin Mariko, on her website:

Rose and Windy are summer friends whose families have visited Awago Beach for as long as they can remember. But this year is different, and they soon find themselves tangled in teen love and family crisis…

Sure, Rose’s dad is still making cheesy and embarrassing jokes, but her mother is acting like she doesn’t even want to be there. Plus, being at the cottage isn’t just about going to the beach anymore. Now Rose and Windy are spending a lot of their time renting scary movies and spying on the teenagers who work at the corner store, as well as learning stuff about sex no one mentioned in health class.

Pretty soon everything is messed up. Rose’s father leaves the cottage and returns to the city, and her mother becomes more and more withdrawn. While her family is falling to pieces, Rose focuses her attention on Dunc, a teenager working at the local corner store. When Jenny, Dunc’s girlfriend, claims to be pregnant, the girls realize that the teenagers are keeping just as many secrets as the adults in their lives.

Many of the concerns raised over This One Summer pertain to the mature themes of coming of age, teen pregnancy and a failed pregnancy, and mature language. Regardless, the highly praised graphic novel would be an excellent addition to library and classroom collections provided it is shelved properly.

First Second, the publisher of This One Summer, graciously provided many of the following materials, which can be used to support your selection of This One Summer or (and we hope this never happens!) to defend it against a challenge.

Praise for This One Summer

  • This One Summer teeters on the fault line of preadolescence, as cozy childhood naivety washes away to reveal the dark complexities of adult life. Jillian Tamaki might be the best illustrator in the entire biz – her drawings are immersive, sensual and overwhelmingly beautiful. A magic synergy is kindled when paired with the storytelling of her cousin Mariko, who implements the best elements of graphic novels, manga, bande dessinée and modern literary prose to awaken a world of sophisticated naturalism. I loved it.” — Craig Thompson (Blankets, Habibi)
  • “Jillian’s art is simply gorgeous, and the perfect companion to the beautiful—and sometimes painful—truth behind Mariko’s every word.” — Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After)
  • This One Summer is so vivid and beautifully told, that I saw, heard, and felt every moment.  This tender and oh-so-true story of one girl’s pivotal summer is a stand-out.” — Deb Caletti (The Nature of Jade, Stay, The Last Forever, and Honey, Baby Sweetheart)
  • “I just want to live forever in the pages that Mariko and Jillian create. Exquisite, subtly layered storytelling of both words and art, and a punch when you least expect it—a rare treasure of a book, like a summer caught and pressed between the pages.” — Svetlana Chmakova (Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Dramacon)
  • “I read this in July, and spent the rest of the summer thinking about it. Every bike on a dusty road and gleefully swimming kid made me think about this book, and how it so eloquently and perfectly captures the feeling of summer– slow, lazy and somehow hectic and astounding and full– that we spend every year after the age of 18 trying to remember.” — Lucy Knisley (Relish, An Age of License)
  • “This One Summer is a precisely written, exquisitely illustrated exploration of the moment when childhood tips over into adolescence. For the second time the Tamakis have raised the bar for young adult comics.” — Hope Larson (Chiggers, A Wrinkle in Time)
  • “The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” — Faith Erin Hicks (Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, Friends with Boys)
  • This One Summer is a beautiful, relatable story of that summer everyone has had, where things happen around you but nothing happens to you.” — Julie Halpern (Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, Don’t Stop Now, Have a Nice Day, The F- It List)
  • “Read this and remember that time. Read this and feel the innocence and the intimate, wrestling out at the beach. Read this and keep it like a secret, or let it run wild like a bonfire night. Read this for the joy and the grit, the tears and the sunburn, what you can’t remember and what you’ll never forget.  Read This One Summer and swear you were there.” — Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket)

Reviews for This One Summer

Booklist (starred review)

Jillian and Mariko Tamaki earned critical acclaim for Skim (2008), and they return here with another coming-of-age tale about the awkward transition from carefree childhood to jaded, self-conscious young adulthood. Rose and her parents spend every summer at their lakeside cabin in Awago, right down the path from Rose’s best friend, Windy, and her family. They spend lazy days collecting rocks on the beach, riding bikes, swimming, and having barbecues. But this summer, Rose’s parents are constantly fighting, and her mother seems resentful and sad. In that unspoken way kids pick up on their parents’ hardships, Rose starts lashing out at Windy and grasping at what she thinks of as adulthood—turning up her nose at silliness (at which Windy excels), watching gory horror movies, reading fashion magazines, and joining in the bullying of a local teenage girl who finds herself in a tough spot. Jillian Tamaki’s tender illustrations, all rendered in a deep purpley blue, depict roiling water, midnight skies Windy’s frenetic sugar-highs, and Rose’s mostly aloof but often poignantly distressed facial expressions with equal aplomb. With a light touch, the Tamakis capture the struggle of growing up in a patchwork of summer moments that lead to a conclusion notably absent of lessons. Wistful, touching, and perfectly bittersweet. — Sarah Hunter

The Horn Book (starred review)

Rose Wallace and her parents go to Awago Beach every summer. Rose collects rocks on the beach, swims in the lake, and goes on bike rides with her younger “summer cottage friend,” Windy. But this year she is feeling too old for some of the activities she used to love—and even, at times, for the more-childish (yet self-assured) Windy. Rose would rather do adult things: watch horror movies and talk with Windy about boobs, boys, and sex. In their second graphic novel—another impressive collaboration—the Tamaki cousins (Skim, rev. 7/08) examine the mix of uncertainty and hope a girl experiences on the verge of adolescence. The episodic plot and varied page layout set a leisurely pace evocative of summer. Rose’s contemplative observations and flashbacks, along with the book’s realistic dialogue, offer insight into her evolving personality, while the dramatic changes in perspective and purply-blue ink illustrations capture the narrative’s raw emotional core. Secondary storylines also accentuate Rose’s transition from childhood to young adulthood: she’s caught in the middle of the tension between her parents (due to her mom’s recent abrasive moodiness and the painful secret behind it) and fascinated by the local teens’ behavior (swearing, drinking, smoking, fighting, and even a pregnancy; the adult situations—and frank language—she encounters may be eye-opening reading for pre-adolescents like Rose). This is a poignant drama worth sharing with middle-schoolers, and one that teen readers will also appreciate for its look back at the beginnings of the end of childhood. — Cynthia K. Ritter

Kirkus (starred review)

A summer of family drama, secrets and change in a small beach town.

Rose’s family has always vacationed in Awago Beach. It’s “a place where beer grows on trees and everyone can sleep in until eleven,” but this year’s getaway is proving less idyllic than those of the past. Rose’s parents argue constantly, and she is painfully aware of her mother’s unhappiness. Though her friendship with Windy, a younger girl, remains strong, Rose is increasingly curious about the town’s older teens, especially Dunc, a clerk at the general store. Jillian and Mariko Tamaki (Skim, 2008) skillfully portray the emotional ups and downs of a girl on the cusp of adolescence in this eloquent graphic novel. Rose waxes nostalgic for past summers even as she rejects some old pursuits as too childlike and mimics the older teens. The realistic dialogue and sensitive first-person narration convey Rose’s naïveté and confusion, and Windy’s comfort in her own skin contrasts with Rose’s uncertainty. Both the text and art highlight small but meaningful incidents as readers gradually learn the truth behind the tension in Rose’s family. Printed in dark blue ink, Jillian Tamaki’s illustrations feature strong, fluid lines, and the detailed backgrounds and stunning two-page spreads throughout the work establish the mood and a compelling sense of place.

Keenly observed and gorgeously illustrated—a triumph.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Rose and Windy, friends for two weeks every summer in nearby Ontario lake cottages, have hit early adolescence. Rose, a bit older, has knowledge and polish that tubby, still-childish Windy lacks, and Windy sometimes bores her. Yet Windy’s instincts are often sound, while Rose is led astray by an infatuation with a local convenience store clerk. As Rose’s parents’ marriage founders and the taunts of local teens wake her to issues of social class, Rose veers between secret grief and fleeting pleasure in the rituals of summer. Jillian Tamaki’s exceptionally graceful line is one of the strengths of this work from the cousin duo behind Skim. Printed entirely in somber blue ink, the illustrations powerfully evoke the densely wooded beach town setting and the emotional freight carried by characters at critical moments, including several confronting their womanhood in different and painful ways. Fine characterization and sensitive prose distinguish the story, too—as when Rose remembers the wisdom a swimming teacher shared about holding his breath for minutes at a time: “He told me the secret was he would tell himself that he was actually breathing.”

School Library Journal (starred review)

Gr 8 Up–Every summer, Rose and her parents vacation at a lakeside cottage. The rest of the world fades away as Rose reunites with her friend Windy and delves into leisurely games of MASH, swimming, and the joy of digging giant holes in the sand—but this summer is different. Rose is on the cusp of adolescence; she’s not ready to leave childhood behind but is fascinated by the drama of the local teens who are only a few years older, yet a universe apart in terms of experience. They drink, they smoke, they swear. As Rose and Windy dip their toes into the mysterious waters of teen life by experimenting with new vocabulary (“sluts!”) and renting horror movies, her parents struggle with their own tensions that seem incomprehensible to Rose. Layers of story unfurl gradually as the narrative falls into the dreamlike rhythm of summer. Slice-of-life scenes are gracefully juxtaposed with a complex exploration of the fragile family dynamic after loss and Rose’s ambivalence toward growing up. The mood throughout is thoughtful, quiet, almost meditative. The muted tones of the monochromatic blue-on-white illustrations are perfectly suited to the contemplative timbre, and the writing and images deserve multiple reads to absorb their subtleties. This captivating graphic novel presents a fully realized picture of a particular time in a young girl’s life, an in-between summer filled with yearning and a sense of ephemerality. The story resolves with imperfect hope and will linger in readers’ mind through changing seasons. — Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

Awards and Recognition

  • An ALSC Notable Book [list]
  • A Caldecott Honor Book
  • A Printz Honor Book
  • A NYPL Best Book of 2014 [list]
  • A National Post Best Book of the Year [list]
  • A CBR Best Comic/Graphic Novel of the Year [list]
  • A GeekDad Best Book of the Year [list]
  • Broken Frontier Best Original Graphic Novel of the Year [read it]
  • PW Comics Week Critics Poll Best Graphic Novel of the Year [read it]
  • Mental Floss ‘Most Interesting Comics of the Year’ [list]
  • A Chicago Public Library Best Teen Graphic Novel of the Year [list]
  • A Kirkus Best of the Year
  • A Booklist Editor’s Choice Title
  • A BCCB Blue Ribbon Title
  • A Boston Globe Best YA Book of the Year [list]
  • A NYPL Best Book for the Teen Age [list]
  • The Onion AV Club Best of the Year [list]
  • A Paste Top 25 Graphic Novels of 2014 [list]
  • A Horn Book Fanfare Title [list]
  • A Best YA Book of the Year [list]
  • A New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2014
  • A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year [list]
  • An SLJ Best Book of the Year [list]
  • A Washington Post Best Graphic Novel of the Year [list]
  • An Best Comic/Graphic Novel of the Year [list]
  • A PW Best Young Adult Book of the Year [read it]
  • An Best of the Year So Far [see the list]
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice, 6/22
  • An Best Book of May [see the list]
  • A PW Best Book of Summer [read it]
  • A Kids Indie Next List Title for Summer 2014

Additional Resources

Using Graphic Novels in Education: This One Summer

Using Graphic Novels in Education is an ongoing feature from CBLDF that is designed to allay confusion around the content of graphic novels and to help parents and teachers raise readers. In this column, we examine graphic novels, including those that have been targeted by censors, and provide teaching and discussion suggestions for the use of such books in classrooms. You can view the column for This One Summer here.

Case Study: This One Summer

Graphic novel This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki broke boundaries by becoming the first graphic novel to make the short list for the Caldecott Medal. Unfortunately, the Caldecott honor yielded an unforeseen negative outcome: Since the announcement of the Caldecott honor, CBLDF has been confidentially involved in monitoring challenges to This One Summer in various communities. More…

• Publisher’s Website for This One Summer

• Jillian Tamaki’s Website

• Mariko Tamaki’s Website

What should I do if This One Summer is challenged?

Most challenges to comics in libraries come from well-meaning individuals, frequently parents, who find something they believe is objectionable in their local public or school library. These challenges are often difficult and stressful for the library staff who must manage them, but there are resources to help them in the process. Below we’ve identified a number of tips and links to assist libraries to increase the likelihood of keeping challenged comics on the shelves.

1. Make Strong Policies.

Strong selection and challenge review policies are key for protecting access to library materials, including comics. The American Library Association has developed a number of excellent tools to assist school and public libraries in the essential preparation to perform before books are challenged here.

2. Face the Challenge.

What do you do when a comic is challenged? Much of the material in this post can be used to help defend This One Summer against a challenge. The American Library Association has developed these helpful tools to cope with challenges:

CBLDF can also help by providing assistance with locating review resources, writing letters of support, and facilitating access to experts and resources. Call 800-99-CBLDF or email at the first sign of a First Amendment emergency!

3. Report the Challenge.

Another essential step in protecting access to comics is to report challenges when they occur. By reporting challenges, you help the free expression community gather necessary information about what materials are at risk so better tools can be created to assist. To report a challenge to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, call us at 800-99-CBLDF or email You can also report the challenge to the Kids’ Right to Read Project, a CBLDF-sponsored program from the National Coalition Against Censorship and one of our frequent partners in the fight against censorship. Finally, you can report the challenge to ALA here.

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2015 by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

Betsy Gomez is Editorial Director for CBLDF.