Twelve-year-old Addie is still working through the aftermath of a family crisis when her dad, a futurist, decides the two of them need a change of scenery for the summer. He’ll oversee a university research lab where talented students are experimenting with using virtual reality as a tool to teach everything from nutrition to empathy. While her dad is engaged with his work, Addie is more than happy to retreat into the VR headset she borrows from the lab. Entire days go by as she explores a virtual world without ever leaving their small campus apartment.
Virtual reality is easy and fun, but real life and real relationships can be scary, and Addie is initially hesitant to form a friendship with her new neighbor Mateo. His life, filled with family, hobbies and volunteer projects, seems so uncomplicated compared with Addie’s. But as Addie begins to open up to Mateo, she’s inspired to hatch a plan for a new way to use VR to make other kids’ real-life anxieties a little more manageable.
Bestselling children’s author Wendy Mass (The Candymakers, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life) has more than two dozen books under her belt, so it seems funny to refer to her as a debut author, but with Lo and Behold, she’s making her graphic novel debut. The book is a collaboration with comics artist Gabi Mendez, who’s also a first-time graphic novel illustrator, and the two work well together. Mass has always been skilled at portraying the hidden thoughts and emotions of young people, and Mendez is adept at capturing Addie’s changeable moods, from loneliness and worry to excitement and elation, in her expressive face and body language.
Mendez also excels at depicting the virtual reality worlds that Addie explores, creatively using background colors and patterns to differentiate the VR world from the real one. Mendez’s rich, vibrant artwork beautifully expresses the natural world, too, and her evocation of the play of light and shadow under a tree is especially effective.
Readers who, like Addie, are excited about the potential of virtual reality technology won’t want to miss the incredibly cool augmented reality feature included in the book, which further enriches an already full and complex story.