Living with Viola

Rosena Fung. Annick, $22.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-77321-549-5
After transferring to the “ ‘better’ school in the district” to pursue her family’s lofty expectations of eventual career success, sixth grader Olivia “Livy” Siu Leen Tong struggles to adjust in this slice-of-life graphic novel, inspired by Fung’s experiences growing up in Canada as the daughter of Hong Kong immigrants. Viola, a dark periwinkle twin representing Livy’s anxieties, perpetually assails her with large, warping speech balloons that steal Livy’s concentration and confidence. Joyful activities such as making dumplings with her mother and drawing keep Viola at bay, until Livy befriends classmates Maddy Mehta, cued Indian; Beth D’Agostino, cued white; and Charlotte Zhang, also Chinese Canadian, and the trials of friendship, class, and race begin to affect her self-perception (“You’re still okay, Livy, even if your food is Chinese-Chinese. You’re still kinda normal-Chinese,” Beth says). Interspersed Cantonese, plus loose, brushlike ink strokes colored in warm reds and oranges, enliven Fung’s story. Livy’s culturally specific concerns, including her family’s reluctance to discuss mental health, will resonate with diasporic readers, though the exceptionally poignant moments that arise from her work navigating her anxiety reinforce the importance of asking for help for any reader. Back matter features an author’s note and a Cantonese-English glossary. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 9–12. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 10/21/2021
Release date: 10/01/2021
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 272 pages - 978-1-77321-548-8
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