Freestyle by Gale Galligan is a graphic novel about finding your own voice and appreciating what makes you unique. This book is also a great look at navigating friendships in middle school.
I chose Freestyle for my kid’s graphic novel online book club in 2023. I have to say that this was one of the most popular books so far this year. The kids enjoyed the story as well as the graphics.
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Genre: Graphic Novel, Realistic Fiction
Length: 272 pages
First Published: 2022
Publisher’s Description: Freestyle
“Cory’s dance crew is getting ready for a major competition. It’s the last one before they graduate eighth grade and go their separate ways to high schools all over New York City, so they have to make it count!
The group starts to have problems as their crew captain gets increasingly intense about nailing the routine, and things go from bad to worse when Cory’s parents ground him for not taking his grades seriously. He gets stuck with a new tutor, Sunna, who he dismisses as a boring nerd… until he catches her secretly practicing cool yo-yo tricks. Cory wants to learn the art of yo-yo, and as his friendship with Sunna grows, he ends up missing practice and bailing on his crew — and they are not happy about it.
With mounting pressure coming from all sides, how is Cory supposed to balance the expectations of his parents, school, dance, and his new friend?”
My Goodreads Review
Cory is part of a dance crew that is getting ready for their final competition before they graduate 8th grade and go to separate high schools. There is a lot of pressure to make this final dance a fantastic one and their crew captain is becoming intense. There is quite a bit of conflict developing in the group that is made worse when Cory is grounded for his grades and he can’t make practice times anymore.
In an effort to help him improve his grades, his parents hire Sunna, a fellow student, to tutor him. While Sunna seems like a boring academic student, Cory soon learns that she is an expert at the yo-yo and he begs her to teach him. Now Cory has to balance his new friendship with his former group of friends as well as his two new hobbies. With the pressure to achieve good grades coming from home as well as the performance pressure coming from his friends, can Cory find a way to balance it all?
This was a popular graphic novel with all of the students in my graphic novel class. While the common themes of friendship and life balance are present in this middle-grade story, the unique addition of yo-yo and dancing as hobbies made it feel fresh and unique.
The illustrations are creative, lively, and well done. There are so many interesting layouts throughout the book and the variety provided great discussion for our class.
Overall, this was a fun story with a group of diverse characters. I highly recommend this one for the tween years.
My Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Freestyle: Discussion Questions for Your Homeschool Study
1. Cory is struggling to navigate his different friendships. What advice would you give him? What other situations in this book are relatable to the average middle school reader?
2. Look at the graphics on pages 38-39. What are some of the different ways the illustrator shows emotion in the graphics?
3. The characters in this book have unique hobbies – break dancing/hip hop dancing and yo-yo skills. Share a hobby that you enjoy.
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