Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Awkward

Chmakova, Svetlana (Author/Illustrator)
Little, Brown 2015. 224 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9780316381307 (paperback)
9780316381321 (hardcover)
9780316381345 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

character, characterization, conflict, layout, multimodal, point of view, structures and features

Award

The Forest of Reading – The Silver Birch Award (Fiction) Nominee – 2017

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Penelope’s first day of middle school is less than ideal. She trips in the hall in front of everyone. When Jaime stops to help, the bullies call her “nerder’s girlfriend” and she pushes him away, literally. Penelope manages to make friends with the members of the art club, but spends a great deal of time regretting how she treated Jaime. The art club has a rivalry with the science club, of which Jaime is a member. As the animosity between the two groups intensifies, Penelope and Jaime grow closer together. They must find a way to reconcile the two groups.

The book centres on Penelope’s experiences. She has an emotional intensity that provides a whole range of amusing facial expressions, from her meltdowns over her guilt for pushing Jaime, to a full-blown crisis that fills an entire page when bullies steal the note of apology she writes to Jaime. The panels are small and action-filled, with most scenes taking place at school. The colours feature a gamut of pale purples, browns and pinks, which reflect Penelope’s personality as someone who is present but withdrawn—an observer.

The dialogue is fresh and fun, with the vigour and awkwardness of adolescence. “Do you think everyone in town heard me?” Penelope asks Jaime after screaming at the bullies for stealing her note. “I think everyone in space heard you,” replies Jaime. “That was awesome vocal projection.”

This touching story is about reconciling differences, unlikely friendships and expanding potential through collaboration. Artists and scientists may have different brains, but their skillsets can be combined to create something truly impressive, as the kids discover when they work together to build an indoor planetarium.

  •  

    Discuss situations where you have felt really awkward. How did you manage to work things out?

  •  

    The author skillfully uses the conventions of graphic novels such as splash pages, panels, speech bubbles and transition types. Reread Chapter One to identify as many conventions as possible.

  •  

    Hatred simmers and occasionally boils over between the science and the art club members. Discuss how people sometimes perpetuate anger and resentment rather than look for real solutions (as in the case of Peppi).

  •  

    Marrying of the arts and sciences was a hallmark of Leonardo Da Vinci's genius. Research other artists/scientists who have had an impact on our world.

  •  

    Scenes that portray middle school social relationships encourage readers to think about the role of feelings of friendship and attraction on the development of personal and sexual identity.

  •  

    In a small group, discuss how different student groups are represented in the text. Consider their interests, activities, interactions and any other characteristics.

  •  

    Design and carry out a mini-inquiry that looks at issues stemming from the text such as overcoming stereotypes, dealing with bullying, and the importance of friends. Share your findings with peers and adults through a multimodal presentation.

  •  

    Discuss situations where you have felt really awkward. How did you manage to work things out?

  •  

    Make a list of clubs that exist or could exist in your school. Write a description of the activities so a new student would be able to choose wisely. Which club(s) would you like to join?

  •  

    The author skillfully uses the conventions of graphic novels such as splash pages, panels, speech bubbles and transition types. Identify those you recognize, then use teacher-selected resources to research additional conventions.

  •  

    Discuss the variety of conflicts that arise. Discuss positive ways of dealing with them.

  •  

    Explore the author’s notes on the steps to writing graphic novels. Use them to create an 8-panel comic strip that showcases events in your classroom or school.

  •  

    Think of an awkward or embarrassing event you or someone you know experienced. Share your story with two or three partners. Are some people's stories more awkward than others?

  •  

    As you read, jot down keywords that represent the progression of Penelope and Jaime’s relationship.

  •  

    Add dialogue to the panels on pages 112 and 113. Change how Penelope’s visit to Jaime’s house ends: add a page of four to six new panels that would take the story in the opposite direction.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To solve problems
  • To use creativity
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Science and Technology
  • Visual Arts