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Book Review: Tsu and the Outliers by Erik Johnson

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews which originally appeared in the June 2018  School Library Journal.

 

tsuTsu and the Outliers by Erik Johnson (ISBN-13: 9781941250242 Publisher: Uncivilized Books Publication date: 06/12/2018)

Gr 7–10—Tsu, a nonverbal boy, is mocked by his peers and those around town for riding “the short bus”; they call him “dumb,” “idiot,” “freak,” and “unusual.” The local police in his rural town and a mysterious, apelike scientist want information from Tsu about the accident that his school bus was involved in and the creature that was seen shortly after. Tsu does not offer them any answers or tips but does haltingly speak to his mother to tell her he has to go away for a while. Densely drawn scenes, particularly outside, where most of the book takes place, are cluttered and sometimes hard to parse. The mostly black-and-white palette is punctuated by spots of a third color, which varies from section to section and helps images stand out; however, the overall effect is still a visual jumble. Readers are thrust right into the action, with little to no backstory about Tsu, the creature, or the scientist, and the thin plot feels like it is just starting to ramp up when it abruptly ends. Though Tsu isn’t explicitly described as autistic, the author heavily implies that he is, and the decision to imbue a character who has a disability with mystical powers is a tired cliché. VERDICT An additional purchase.

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