cover image SPF 40

SPF 40

Sharon Emerson, illus. by Renée Kurilla. S&S/Atheneum, $19.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-4169-9709-2

The graphic novel Zebrafish (2010) introduced a group of teens that organized a band to support cancer charity work. This sequel about the group’s post-band summer (which was also produced by author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds and his FableVision children’s media company) comes sharply into focus at the moment that band member Tanya, now a camp-counselor-in-training, discovers that a diabetic camper, Scott, has fallen ill—and it’s her fault. Tanya was holding on to the pack with the remote control to his insulin pump, but she handed it off casually to someone else. “Scott said you had his—” starts her friend Plinko, and she’s instantly stricken. “His pack! I do! I did!” It’s a vivid depiction of the kind of absentminded mistake that’s easy to make, but the rest of the story never achieves that immediacy. The dialogue and full-color cartoons are lively, and the kids are involved in worthwhile summer projects, yet the more sobering elements of the story—Tanya’s leukemia (now in remission), Scott’s diabetes, Vita’s older brother’s cancer research—seem at odds with the overall narrative arc, which is determinedly cheerful. Ages 10–14. (June)■