Julian & Mariko Tamaki: This One Sumer

Cousins Julian and Mariko Tamaki have teamed up to write and illustrate a compelling graphic novel about two preteen girls encountering several events of adult life during a summer vacation at Awago Beach.  This is an outstanding graphic novel that would require parental consent as it deal with topic from sex, graphic language, suicide and miscarriage.  There are descriptive conversations about puberty and dialog about teen sex.

I would strongly encourage parents to sign a consent form for this book because there are several topics that I feel teens need to discuss and understand.

First, I feel that thee could be some great discussion about appropriate conversation.  When should we be free to sling obscenities and when should we curb our tongues?  There are many points in the book when the conversations of others is offensive and inappropriate for the ears of others.  Yet, the speakers encourage each other to continue the vulgar dialog rather than waiting for the young girls to pass, or the crowd with children to disperse.  The main character engage in a conversation about breasts that is only halted when an older couple at the beach asks the girls to stop.

Next, students could discuss the social norms in which people can refer to each other in highly negative terms but be drawn into comfort and acceptance with degrading treatment from others.  Why would anyone accept being called a slut be a person claiming to be a friend?  And why would anyone seek a physical relationship with a person that clearly objectifies and mistreats them?

Similarly, students could also explore the desire to be accepted by the older crowd and how many teens are taken advantage of by the older kids.  They could conduct surveys and formulate persuasive positions to either allow degradation or, hopefully, discourage it.

The family paradox of preferential appearance could also be explored in this book.  Clearly, Rose’s mother was still in tremendous pain from the events of the prior summer, but she tries to pretend as though it does not bother her.  She and her husband keep the secret from Rose and unsuccessfully attempt to keep the tension between them hidden as well.

I think it would be interesting to have students debate the father’s and mother’s positions on dealing with the grief from their loss.  I feel that if the students could learn how to empathize with both positions it would lead toward the understanding that people need open communication with partners in any kind of relationship.  To me this is far more important than avoiding grammatical errors.


One thought on “Julian & Mariko Tamaki: This One Sumer

  1. This is a graphic novel that needs to be in every classroom library for students to read independently (which wouldn’t require any parental consent forms!), but as you point out, it’s also a book that could lead to rich, complex discussions that have the potential to transform lives. And yes, that should be our goal in our classrooms. We get so caught up in things that are not very important and end up overlooking the ways that our classes could truly make a difference in our students’ lives and thinking.


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