Squished has cute and coloful graphics, but I’m sad to say I didn’t love it. I still recommend it for elementary libraries, but I’ve got several “didn’t likes” in the review. In fact, after writing the review, I’m thinking maybe I am being too hard on the book. Nah!
AUTHOR: Megan Wagner Lloyd
ILLUSTRATOR: Michelle Mee Nutter
PUBLICATION DATE: March 7, 2023
GENRE: realistic fiction, graphic novel
SETTING: Hickory Valley, Maryland
GIVE IT TO: ES
AWARDS AND KUDOS
- Kirkus starred
- Booklist starred
- SLJ starred
- no additional awards as of April 2023, but this is a new book
Eleven-year-old Avery Lee loves living in Hickory Valley, Maryland. She loves her neighborhood, school, and the end-of-summer fair she always goes to with her two best friends. But she’s tired of feeling squished by her six siblings!
They’re noisy and chaotic and the younger kids love her a little too much. All Avery wants is her own room — her own space to be alone and make art.
So she’s furious when Theo, her grumpy older brother, gets his own room instead, and her wild baby brother, Max, moves into the room she already shares with her clinging sister Pearl! Avery hatches a plan to finally get her own room, all while trying to get Max to sleep at night, navigating changes in her friendships, and working on an art entry for the fair.
And when Avery finds out that her family might move across the country, things get even more complicated.
THE SHORT VERSION
Squished is cute, but I didn’t love it.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT SQUISHED
I love that this was about a large, imperfect family. They definitely have their struggles, but at the end of the day, they all love and support each other. Students who have large families will certainly identify with the quest for one’s own room. I didn’t have a large family (just me and my two sisters), but I did share a room with one sister until I was 12. I was the oldest, and I finally succeeded in my quest for my own room at age 12. I totally get where 11-year old Avery is coming from.
The parents are present in the family. Too often, parents are absent or practically absent in middle grade books. I get that neglect happens, but it seems middle grade books love to make their protagonists into overly-independent kids. Yes, middle graders can be very independent, but it’s nice seeing caring, involved parents in middle grade literature.
The dad in Squished is just as involved in the day-to-day household tasks and childcare as the mother is. And at the end, it’s the mother who finally gets a job. The dad will stay home and write. Or at least, he’ll attempt to – I don’t know how much writing he’ll get done once the mother starts working again. Good luck with all that, dad!
Avery’s emotional swings are realistic. I love that she isn’t portrayed as precocious or spunky, as kids this age often are in middle grade lit. She has her ups and downs, as any 11-year old girl will have.
The illustrations are gorgeous and colorful. I recently reviewed Allergic, which is from the same author and illustrator as Squished. This book will be popular with elementary readers for the same reason Allergic is.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT SQUISHED
A whole lot happens, but it’s somehow still boring. At 256 pages, this is on the long side for a middle grade graphic novel. That’s not terrible, but a lot of it could have been cut in favor of some more serious issues. So much is packed in, but most of it is just day-to-day stuff that doesn’t matter.
Avery’s failed businesses, the art contest, the school awards ceremony, playing video games at Avery’s friend’s house, the two lost children…none of these are important to the story. They are all things that happen and are quickly forgotten and never mentioned again.
Actually…the two lost children just made me mad because no one thought to alert the police or to knock on neighbors’ doors when two preschoolers are lost in a storm as it is getting dark outside.
The children, ages 4 and 5, could not have gotten that far, so it makes sense that a neighbor might have them and be waiting out the storm (which is exactly what happened). At the very least, the neighbors could have helped with the search.
Things that should have gotten more air time instead:
- 13-year old Theo’s possible depression. His door is always closed, and he’s often seen wearing a frown or a scowl (see the front cover). Maybe it’s normal 13-year old boy angst, but it could be more. He seems quite disconnected from the rest of the family, and he doesn’t appear to have any friends.
- The bullying incident involving Avery’s older brother Theo at the skating rink – is this why he seems depressed? Who are these kids? Does this happen often? Unfortunately, once they leave the skating rink, the bullying doesn’t come up again.
- Avery’s jealousy of her best friend’s new friend. It’s a short plot point that doesn’t continue much beyond a mention or two. It’s a very normal jealousy for tweens this age, and I wish it had been explored further.
- The parent-ification of the older siblings, particularly Avery. I understand that the parents are stretched too thin and that they need Avery and Theo help a lot. But this should have been acknowledged in the story. It should have been something Avery and Theo talked about and that the parents recognized. They ultimately move to Oregon, where it seems they have some family close by, to help ease the burden on the family. This should get more than one mention. These parents are trying to make it better, but because they don’t talk about how much Avery and Theo have to do, it feels normalized. Because of this, I don’t believe anything will really change for Avery and Theo once they move to Oregon.
- The house is too clean! There is a small amount of clutter, but with seven children under age 13, two overwhelmed parents, and a dog and a cat, it really should be a LOT messier. You can see this in the two images I included above. Theo’s bed is made neatly. His dresser is clean on top, and his bookshelf is neat. In the living room image, there is no clutter anywhere except for a toy behind the sofa and a dragon toy on the box. Images of the kitchen show spotless, uncluttered countertops. The van is also squeaky-clean inside. No goo stuck to the seats or trash on the floor.
The family’s last name is Lee, and they all have dark hair. No ethnicity is mentioned, but they cue Asian American.
One of Avery’s two best friends is an African American boy whose mother is the elementary school principal.
The children are 13, 11, 8, 5, 4, 2, and 4 months old. They are a mix of boys and girls.
Gorgeous and colorful! This will be popular with elementary readers!
- large families, the need for quiet, wanting one’s own room, siblings, friendship, responsibilities, moving away, daily life, older siblings caretaking younger ones, bullying
LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW
Would adults like this book? I think adults who have large families will appreciate Avery’s quest for her own room. It seems families this large are not as common today as they once were (in 18 years of teaching, the largest family I can think of had four children), but older adults who come from large families will probably identify.
Would I buy this for my high school library? No – this is too young for high school.
Would I buy this for my middle school library? Maybe – Avery has just finished 5th grade, so it’s probably a bit young for most middle schoolers. Sixth graders would be a good fit though.
Would I buy this for my elementary school library? 100% YES! I recommend this for elementary libraries.
No content concerns for elementary or middle school.
- Language: none
- Sexuality: none
- Violence: mild; a bullying incident at the skating rink
- Drugs/Alcohol: none
- Other: none