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Always Anthony

By Terri Libenson

Reviewed by Mia Macrossan

Always Anthony is the eighth book in the New York Times bestselling Emmie & Friends series, which include Invisible Emmie, Just Jaimie, Positively Izzie, Remarkably Ruby, Surprisingly Sarah and Becoming Brianna, all reviewed in StoryLinks.
Though the books are labelled as graphic novels  it would be more accurate to say that they have strong graphic novel influences. While there certainly are elements (and whole chapters) in traditional graphic novel format, the story is told in a variety of illustrative formats.
This latest story is again told from the alternating POVs, and its about  popular Anthony (TPFW)* and timid Leah as they grapple with a bullying incident at school. Anthony and Leah meet when she becomes his writing tutor. Gradually they get to know one another and a friendship develops. Leah’s passions are food, writing and chemistry while Anthony is keen on science, sport and a girl in his class, Nikki.
One day they witness Anthony’s teammates bullying a sixth grader. What happens next could cement their new friendship or blow it up forever. In this story about unexpected friendship and everyday bravery Libenson cleverly avoids the predictable ‘they fall in love’ trope to show how two quite different personalities find commonalities and support and challenge each other.
The story is full of jokes, witty illustrations, and self-deprecating humour. As the reader gets to know Anthony and Leah a rich world of family, school and friends is revealed which is the real strength of the series. Libenson is adept at exploring and revealing her characters’ inner thoughts and feelings. Her immense popularity with her middle grade audience is well deserved and Always Anthony is an enjoyable and satisfying addition to the series.
*Too Popular for Words
Harper Collins US 2024
Terri Libenson
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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