This delightful middle-grade graphic novel twines together mystery with messages about friendship and not basing judgments on first impressions. Sangiacomo perfectly captures the dread some students face as the summer ends and uncertainties can no longer be avoided. Worries over new teachers, new classes and classmates, and new situations nag at 10-year-old Ted as he tries to make his way through the first week of school without drawing too much attention to himself. Unfortunately, his wild red hair makes that impossible and soon he finds himself surrounded by others who call him “Bedhead Ted.” Through it all, Ted’s best friend Stacy is there to help him remember that he is not alone, and to distract him with the mystery of the Brookside Beast—a massive raccoon taller than a basketball hoop! However, even though Ted’s hair draws unwanted attention and taunts, it also holds a secret of its own—the ability to stretch, catch, and lift. With this newfound knowledge, Ted and Stacy are certain that they will be the ones to find the Brookside Beast. Yet even as Stacy and Ted search for the Beast, Ted still finds himself worried. This time, instead of worrying over what classmates will say about his hair, Ted is concerned that Stacy is becoming closer friends with the others and drifting away from him. A concern that many children face as the school year goes on and those who were good friends meet new friends through clubs, organizations, and classes.
Sangiacomo works the shadow of the beast into the backgrounds of the pages, making this graphic novel perfect for young readers who need a little extra entertainment to keep them hooked on the story. It also makes this book fun to re-read, as readers try to find all the images of the beast, and do not have to worry about missing the plot to do so. Filled with mystery, relatable issues, and just a touch of superheroes, Sangiacomo crafts a story that children and adults alike will enjoy.
Review by Sarah Bihn (She/her)
MLIS, Kent State University iSchool