cover image The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour

Niki Smith. Little, Brown, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-54033-9

After saving his art teacher from an armed attacker at school, Manuel Soto, a Latinx aspiring photographer, copes with PTSD with the help of a therapist and his single mother. Specifically, Manuel takes pictures on his phone’s camera to anchor himself during frequent dissociative episodes—dark grayscale scenes in angular, fractured panels convey these moments in contrast to otherwise painterly full-color illustrations. In art class, Manuel befriends two tablemates, both agriculture enthusiasts raising animals for the country fair. Sebastian, a white student, cares for a calf on his family farm, while Caysha, who is Black, sees to fancy chickens at her grandparents’ house. Smith (The Deep & Dark Blue) slowly builds a tender romance between Manuel and Sebastian—Manuel assists Sebastian with his calf, and Sebastian helps Manuel through an episode. With a soft start and a gentle build, Smith’s graphic novel details the realities of Manuel’s trauma response while reveling in subdued, generous scenes that showcase the three friends’ everyday joys. Back matter further contextualizes PTSD, anxiety, and the grounding techniques Manuel employs. Ages 8–12. Agent: Charlie Olsen, Inkwell Management. (Oct.)