Lo and Behold

­Random House Graphic. May 2023. 224p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9780593179635; pap. $13.99. ISBN 9780593179628.
Gr 4-7–“He can make me go with him, but he can’t make me interested.” Addie packs up and spends a summer on a college campus where her futurist father is leading a team of students developing virtual and augmented reality projects. Despite Addie’s initial reluctance, she becomes interested in VR as a way to escape and explore, and she even makes a friend in real life, Mateo. They share interests—geocaching, moon trees—before they finally share more personal stories, like what happened to Mateo’s brother and Addie’s mom. Ultimately, with the help of some students, Doug, Lily, and Surekha, they work together to develop VR experiences for people in the hospital where Mateo volunteers. At its heart, this is a story about empathy, whether it’s a stranger with chemo or your own parent. Addie reflects, “I think it’s harder to have empathy for the people we love the most. When they do something wrong it feels so personal.” The layout is creative and dynamic, and the illustrations are full of relevant details. Mendez and Tse do excellent work with shadow and light, and the faint shimmer of VR. Panels set in the past have a gray outline with rounded corners, while VR panels have a half-round cutout along the middle of the bottom. Addie and her family present as white; there is diversity among the secondary characters.
VERDICT No goggles or controllers are needed to fully immerse yourself in this summer STEM story about family, friendship, and empathy. Highly recommended.

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