July 2024

Pizza Face

By Rex Ogle
Review by
Pizza Face is a fresh take on the age-old crisis of puberty that will help adolescents feel more empathetic and less alone while navigating their own physical and emotional changes.
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“The big ‘P’ is the worst,” according to Rex Ogle’s Pizza Face, a spot-on graphic novel featuring the talented, prolific author as a scrawny 12-year-old suffering through the onset of puberty in seventh grade puberty. It’s a welcome sequel to Four Eyes, which chronicled Rex’s sixth grade year.

Middle grade readers will readily identify with Rex, whose acne erupts like a “volcano on my forehead” on the first day of seventh grade. “I’m a mutant, but without any cool superpowers,” he laments, his angst readily transmitted through Dave Valeza’s emotion-filled illustrations, which showcase Rex’s ongoing mortification via facial expressions, body language and onomatopoeia—especially the dreaded early morning beep of Rex’s alarm clock, and Rex’s frequent foot stomping.

Ogle and Valeza effectively spotlight brief scenes from Rex’s unfolding school year, including the horrors of first-period gym, where Rex, the smallest and least sporty, is often picked last. “You’re like our wittle baby,” one girl tells him. Things get worse day after day, week after week, as friendships unravel and misunderstandings multiply, especially with his best friends Scott and Kennedy (who is also sort of his girlfriend). Rex faces several bullies, and starts hanging out with a troublemaker when his friends desert him, ratcheting up the action. Each heartfelt scene draws readers into Rex’s misery as he longs for a growth spurt and a deep voice like the other boys.

Rex’s supportive but exhausted, constantly working parents can’t afford acne cream or deodorant, adding to Rex’s frustrations. His Abuela comes to the rescue, sending Zit-Zapper cream, offering helpful advice and taking Rex to a dermatologist.

This book has broad appeal, showing a variety of characters with different challenges. A boy named Brody, for instance, has the opposite problem of Rex, confessing, “Look at me. I’m a hairy, oversized monster. I’m thirteen and look like I’m almost twenty.” Meanwhile, female characters are teased and feel self-conscious, while both a wealthy and a popular boy grapple with their own issues. As Rex concludes, “It took all year to realize most kids are going through the same things as me.” Pizza Face is a fresh take on an age-old crisis and will help adolescents feel more empathetic and less alone while navigating their own physical and emotional changes. Here’s hoping Rex’s misadventures continue in future installments.

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Pizza Face

Pizza Face

By Rex Ogle
ISBN 9781338575040

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