Children’s book of the week: Delicates by Brenna Thummler

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Our latest recommendation for young readers is an extremely accessible graphic novel addressing difficult themes.

One of the areas that’s been heavily cut back on as newspapers and magazines trim their budgets in current times is reviews of books for young readers. As such, it’s getting trickier and trickier for authors of books for children and younger readers to get their work noticed. This weekly spot on the site is our attempt to do something about that. If you see a book you like here, please do spread the word. And who knows? We may see some of these stories on the big screen in the future.

All (age-appropriate) reading is valid reading. But like their shorter, episodic cousins, comics, graphic novels can sometimes fall prey to the kind of thinking that says only certain kinds of books count. If you think so, let the eloquence and artistry of something like Delicates convince you otherwise.


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Delicates is actually a sequel, though it’s easily read on its own (indeed, I only realised after I’d finished it). It picks up the story of Marjorie from a previous book, Sheets. She’s friends with Wendell, a sheet-wearing ghost who, with other ghostly friends, has taken up residence in Marjorie’s family’s laundromat.

As Delicates opens, Marjorie is coming to terms with the loss of a parent, a change in her friendship group, and complicated feelings about a boy. She’s about to meet Eliza, a high school teacher’s daughter, amateur photographer and ghost-hunter, who’s also repeating eighth grade as Marjorie and her friends move up into it. Delicates explores each of their perspectives, delving into Marjorie’s laundromat and Eliza’s dark room to find the parts of themselves that are most difficult to bring into the daylight.

“Humans are delicate, too. The teeniest mistake can ruin them, even if you do everything else right.” Some of the very best writing for any ages can cut to our hearts in just a couple of sentences. Delicates speaks to anyone tween-age and up in simple but never simplistic terms. It examines what it’s like to feel invisible in a crowd. What it means to be part of a group, and what we’ll sacrifice to make ourselves fit. What can drive us to the end of our rope – and what can bring us back again.

The graphic novel format means it can often cover those subjects in just a handful of sentences over a short cluster of scenes. It’s brief and bold and beautiful – both in its storytelling and in the rich pastel panels, that are simply wonderful to sink into.

Adults should know that Delicates touches on loss, bullying and suicidal thoughts. But at its core it’s full of hope and the joy of second chances. It’s full of people making mistakes – but also working out how to address them, do better and move on.

It’s a great addition to your bookshelves, whether you’re already a graphic novel-loving household, dipping your toes in or trying to tempt a reluctant reader with a more visual format.


Title: Delicates
Author: Brenna Thummler
Reading age: 10+
Publisher: Oni Press (Simon & Schuster)
Release date: 23 March 2021
Purchase / more info


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