cover image Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song

Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song

Austin Paramore, illus. by Sarah Bollinger. Oni, $24.99 paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-63715-223-2

A down-and-out teen pianist must figure out how to free the soul of a jazz musician from a haunted electronic keyboard in this inventive graphic novel by debut author Paramore and Bollinger (Girls Have a Blog). Malcolm is having a bad day: a mugger deems him “too broke to rob,” he fails a quiz in spectacular fashion, and his keyboard is destroyed by a classmate. Upon returning home with the pieces, his father suggests that Malcolm give up music so he can “focus on something productive.” When Malcolm’s best friend January insists on replacing it, the teens visit a music shop where a mysterious man gives them a keyboard for free, as long as they “pay it forward.” Following a dream in which Malcolm meets an old pianist who requests his help, Malcolm asserts that the instrument is haunted. Though he would rather pretend the haunting isn’t happening, January urges him to help the musician. Bollinger’s warm grayscale art features a visually distinct Black cast sporting animated facial expressions. Through a lightly speculative premise, Paramore explores quintessential themes of grief and uncertainty in this warm and humorous tale. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)