Lai's bright, funny storytellingin a cross between a comic and an illustrated chapter bookmoves fluidly between prose and pictures, and sometimes slips into poetry…Henry contains multitudes: observant scientist, lab rat, wuxia disciple, weird poodle, even a helipad. At one point Lai draws him morphing into various combinations of the other kids at school, trying to find a perfect personality…This is exactly how I remember 12 feeling. Your identity is unformed and you're constantly trying on pieces of other people's, looking for something that fits, that will get you some little shred of acceptance…Whether we're receiving too much attention or not enough, we all want to connect. And in this sharp, sweet story there is much to connect with.
The New York Times Book Review - Vera Brosgol
Henry Khoo chronicles his life quandaries in this fresh, idiosyncratic story that meshes prose and graphic novel formats. The 12-year-old Australian resident feels suffocated and sometimes humiliated by his overprotective mother and older sister, and is convinced that his father in Singapore, with whom he shares only perfunctory phone conversations, doesn’t like him. At school, Henry’s best and only friend suddenly adopts a new passel of pals, leaving him alone, resentful, and ready to retaliate. The multistranded plot unfolds in Henry’s notebook, brimming with hyperbolic line drawings that are charged with imagination, emotion, and humor. (He portrays his mother and sister as anthropomorphized helicopters hovering overhead, while a flattened Henry exclaims, “You’ve turned me into a helipad!”) The disgruntled boy makes some uncharacteristically bold, even reckless, moves. He creates the anonymous blog
Fly on the Wall (the name reflects his feeling of invisibility), which features mean-spirited cartoons of classmates, and he surreptitiously flies alone to Singapore to speak with his father about some long-percolating questions. As she did in Pie in the Sky, Lai deftly mines the angst and conundrums of life as a dual-cultural adolescent fording the turbulent torrents of peer and family relationships. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (May)
Funny, enthralling, and a great reminder that being a little odd isn’t a bad thing.” Kayla Miller, author of
Click and Camp "Bright, funny storytelling . . . in this sharp, sweet story there is much to connect with." The New York Times Book Review * "Near-misses and laugh-out-loud moments abound, which will endear it to readers who like 'Big Nate' and 'Wimpy Kid,' but Henry’s character development in this illustrated novel leaves Greg Heffley in the dust." School Library Journal, starred review * "Lai has a talent of not preaching to her readers, instead offering the reassurance that no one is alone in experiencing the painful awkwardness and occasionally harsh realities of growing up. . . This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere." Kirkus Reviews, starred review * "Comics-style artwork gives the book Wimpy Kid flair . . . readers will fall in love with Henry. A smile-inducing crowd-pleaser." Booklist, starred review "I absolutely loved the storytelling . . . Add in the copious humor (did I mention it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny?) and remarkable cathartic journey and you’ve got yourself a winner. Be careful with this book. It’s one of the rare titles that will appeal to a wide range of different kind of readers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you." Fuse #8 Praise for Pie in the Sky Winner of the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor! A Parents Magazine Best Kids Book of the Year! A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year! An NPR Best Book of the Year! A Horn Book Best Book of the Year! is like enjoying a decadent cake. . . heartwarming and rib-tickling." Terri Libenson, bestselling author of "Pie in the Sky Invisible Emmie* “Perfect for fans of Gene Luen Yang and Victoria Jamieson.” Shelf Awareness, starred review * "Like salted caramel, a perfect balance of flavors, this deftly drawn story is a heartfelt treat." Kirkus Reviews, starred review "Uproarious humor and a burgeoning friendship add to the ingredients in this stunning debut. . . a book to be savored – and the illustrations are the icing on the cake." NPR * "The humor [is] akin to that of Jeff Kinney’s popular “Wimpy Kid” series . . . the perfect mixture of funny and emotionally resonant." School Library Journal, starred review * "Lai imbues this [story] with an undeniable sweetness." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review * "A delectable page-turner. . . Heartbreakingly honest; in equal parts funny and poignant." Horn Book, starred review
Gr 4–7—Henry Khoo is tired of being babied by his family and invisible at school. Trying to declare independence from both, he started the infamous "Fly on the Wall" blog, which spreads gossip about his schoolmates, and is currently on his way to the airport for an unauthorized trip from Perth, Australia, (where he lives with his helicoptering mom, sister, and grandmother), to Singapore for a surprise visit to his dad. On the way, he must deal with a former best friend, a lurking nemesis, a seatmate who could double as an encyclopedia, and an online comment from the unknown "Frog in the Well," threatening that Frog is going to out Henry to Principal Trang as the creator of the notorious blog. Near-misses and laugh-out-loud moments abound in this novel, which will endear it to readers who like "Big Nate" and "Wimpy Kid," but Henry's character development in this illustrated novel leaves Greg Heffley in the dust. VERDICT Henry's hero journey is replete with pitfalls and moments of self awareness, both of which lead him to a better understanding of why he does what he does (he's lonely) and why his family is so overprotective (they love him). Any kid who recognizes that they have weaknesses will identify with and cheer for Henry. Highly recommended for libraries that serve tweens.— Elizabeth Friend, Wester Middle School, TX
Some things you must learn on your own.
In this graphic/prose hybrid, Henry Khoo embarks on a secret mission. Now that he’s 12, the legal age to travel alone, he has plans to fly from his Australian home to Singapore, where his father lives. As he haphazardly navigates his way to his flight, his tangled motivations slowly unfold. Initially it appears he wants to establish his independence, seeking reprieve from the overbearing eyes of older sister Jie, Mama, and wuxia drama–watching Popo. Soon the comedic narration reveals that Henry is confronting myriad issues: his emotionally and geographically distant father; his waning relationship with his best friend; and his need to hide his secret identity as the creator of the Fly on the Wall website. Spawned from Henry’s sense that he’s invisible to all, his online comics illustrate school gossip—and draw the opprobrium of the school administration. As in Lai’s debut,
Pie in the Sky (2019), humorous line drawings punctuate the text and reveal Henry’s inner feelings. Flashbacks deftly illuminate Henry’s emotional journey to a wider worldview and eventual ownership of his feelings. Lai has a talent of not preaching to her readers, instead offering the reassurance that no one is alone in experiencing the painful awkwardness and occasionally harsh realities of growing up. Henry and his family are Chinese, and dialogue is occasionally bilingual.
This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere.
(Graphic/fiction hybrid. 9-12)