Guts is a graphic novel and personal memoir in which writer/artist Raina Telgemeier shares what it was like to grow up with certain fears that manifested into physical pains. This story will resonate for any child (or parent with a child) who experiences anxiety in some way. Although not everyone will completely understand Telgemeier’s emetophobia (or extreme fear of vomiting), the anxiety it produced further pained her stomach, while also affecting her food choices.
Telgemeier dedicates this wonderfully written story “For anyone who feels afraid.” She captures the child’s imagination in a way that sometimes might not seem present in a parent’s day-to-day world. Children are always thinking, and during the course of a single day, this might include many thoughts that involve questions or worries about school, food, or even being unsure of what to say when spoken to. Guts generates a thought-provoking story that’s very real and personal, while also illustrating those daily interactions with vivid colors (by Braden Lamb), bold facial expressions, perfectly emotive lettering, and a variety of different panel sizes that allows readers to breeze through the story in one evening (like me).
The artwork from Telgemeier is all-ages appropriate and is completely accessible to children who want to look at the vibrant pages, while also identifying friends or bullies by the expressions on their faces. Illustrations not only emphasize how fun the imagery appears on paper, but also highlights the main character’s anxiety and fears through nervous, sweaty faces and thought bubbles that indicate silence means so much more to a child when there’s so much brewing under the surface. Guts presents a balance where art and dialogue make a genuine story that’s truly heartfelt and worth anyone’s time.
This brilliant autobiographical account in Telgemeier’s life allows readers to understand the notion that fear can lead to extreme levels of stress. As a parent of two children (ages 6 and 7), this story has an immediate pull on my heart. Although my own personal, relatable feelings on the matter cannot be summed up in a few sentences, it’s important to note that having a child with anxiety is very present in our world, and we do what we can to provide a home that allows for open communication to help alleviate any fears or nervousness that might pop up from time to time.
If Guts is your first introduction to Raina Telgemeier (like me), then you will instantly discover that every other story written by Telgemeier is a must have. Not only a 2020 Eisner Award recipient for Guts (Best Publication for Kids and Best Writer/Artist), Telgemeier has received three other Eisners for Ghosts, Sisters, and Smile, along with many other accolades. She has also authored Drama and The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels.
If you are experiencing any anxiety or if you’re a parent with a child with anxiety, Guts is a great way to help identify those feelings and learn to talk about them. If there was ever a reason to believe that #StoriesMatter, finding a way to help ourselves or others communicate our feelings is a very powerful and important message.
“It takes guts to admit to how you feel on the inside, but chances are, others will be able to relate. You won’t know unless you try!”
Guts is absolutely brilliant, and its profound impact on the importance of normalizing conversation about feelings will not be lost on its readers.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.
Creative Team: Raina Telgemeier (writer and artist), Braden Lamb (colorist)
Publisher: Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic
Click here for purchase.