cover image A First Time for Everything

A First Time for Everything

Dan Santat. First Second, $22.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62672-415-0

Conveying milestones that include first Fanta, first kiss, and first disco, this emotionally perceptive graphic novel memoir from Caldecott Medalist Santat follows a teen’s arc from invisible to invincible. “Life was good” throughout Santat’s childhood in small-town Camarillo, Calif., where the only child helped his mom with errands, hung out with friends, and “did normal kid stuff.” Middle school, however, is one mortification after another, and Santat feels trapped by his self-imposed isolation—a protective measure against bullying. But in the summer of 1989, just before he starts high school, Santat’s parents nudge him into a three-week European tour, and life is never the same. Interstitials in a simplified color palette flash back to prior school humiliations, while exuberant full-color panels in Santat’s signature style convey the trip, including the dreamy reality of early freedoms, the nervous comedy of teen antics, and the wonder of viewing “things I’d only seen on postcards, in textbooks, and in movies.” As Santat finds friends and a way of being himself, what slowly emerges is one person’s hope in and relief at experiencing the world as a bigger place, finding a space in it, and realizing that both adults and peers are rooting for him. Ages 10–14. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Feb.)