by Mariko Tamaki
illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Toronto: Groundwood, 2010
144 pages. Ages 14-18.
SKIM is the coming of age tale of Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a biracial young girl who practices Wicca and attends an all-girl school. Kim falls for her female art teacher and encounters familiar adolescent themes of isolation and confusion.
The text is formatted much like a diary or journal, in which the readers catch glimpses of Kim’s life (and the accompanying self-evaluation and revisionism of any teen, shown through the scratched-out and rewritten words). Within the novel, there are pictures so detailed and intricate that it was almost as though the story stands still to allow the reader’s eyes to wander the nuances of Jillian Tamaki’s work. Kim’s face bears a strong resemblance to female Japanese Kabuki masks. Her race is referred to by other characters in the novel, but not particularly by Kim herself. Homosexuality is also a prominent theme in the story. Most notable was the scene where Kim and Ms. Archer are kissing in the woods: it was a good example of there being more to the story than a teacher/student liaison and this concept is illustrated through the details of the leaves, grass, and wind around the two of them. That particular scene is drawn in such a way that doesn’t center the kiss but rather focuses on nature.
This book is appropriate for mature 7th-graders; Amazon recommends the title for ages 14 and up, but as it’s an entertaining and informative resource for adolescents, decisions about whether to include this in a 7th-grade curriculum should be made on an individual or class-by-class basis. Teachers and students could discuss friendship, social ostracism, self-discovery, biracial identity, and sexual orientation.
2008 Governor General's Literary Award Nominee
2008 Ignatz Award for Best Graphic Novel
2008 New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books List
2009 Doug Wright Award Winner, Best Book
2009 Eisner Award nominee (Best Publication for Teens, Writer, New Graphic Album, Penciller/Inker)
2008 Best of Books of the Year: Publishers Weekly, Quill & Quire
2011 Most Awesome Book, Toms River Library Teen Gay Straight Book Club
Media: pen and ink, colored pencil