Quick notes: There’s still time to enter the giveaway for Stowaway by John David Anderson. And, applications for Cybils judges are open, this year with a special invitation to BIPOC voices! If you have a book blog or talk about books on any other social media, please apply by the September 1 deadline! This is so much fun – you can read my posts from 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020 for my ongoing love of the Cybils.
All may seem ordinary in the quiet Queens neighborhood of Shadyside where this graphic is set, but adventure and nefarious activity is afoot, as a trio of girls finds out.
The Adventures of Team Pom:
by Isabel Roxas.
Flying Eye Books, 2021.
Review copy gratefully received from the author.
The story opens with a giant orange squid being chased up the East River by a pair of mice in black suits, bowler hats, and sunglasses. When the squid escapes them, the narrative turns to our girls, introducing them in boxes above their figures as they run to a synchronized swimming competition at their local Boys and Girls Club. They are Ruby, their “resident genius”who appears African-American; Agnes, a pigeon enthusiast who lives above Sonny’s Groceria; and tiny Roberta, lover of pork buns and per the author, Chinese-Filipina-American. They bonded together and formed their own synchronized swim team when they didn’t fit into any of the other interest groups at Shady HQ, as the Boys and Girls club building is called.
Their first routine, depicting a melting snowman, is hilarious, though they are mocked by both the judges and their rival team for it. But things have been going missing around the building, and Agnes is targeted by one of the other clubs, whose members are convinced she stole something from them. This leads to her discovering Cyd, the missing squid, with whom Agnes is able to communicate thanks to her practice speaking with pigeons. Even as the rest of Team Pom gets to know Cyd and works to incorporate him into their swimming routine, he’s still being pursued by the black-suited mice.
This is an joy-filled, wacky adventure with great main characters, filled with enough hilarious tiny details to warrant re-reading. The imagined Queens is filled with characters of lots of different skin colors, much as I (who have never been there) imagine that the real Queens is. But the book focuses more on celebrating Team Pom’s diversity of interests and talents. Even though they don’t fit in with the other clubs and are more following Roberta’s lead in taking up synchronized swimming than really good at it, all of them are needed to solve the mystery and rescue Cyd.
The book is printed on heavy, textured paper, which brings out the retro feeling of the oranges and muted turquoises that dominate the art. I especially loved the expressive eyebrows on all of the characters and the small animals that appear in nearly every scene, as well as the full-page layouts of big scenes. I’m looking forward to more adventures with Team Pom!
The unabashed, over-the-top goofiness of this story reminds me of Whales on Stilts and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen by M.T. Anderson. It would also pair well with Sanity and Tallulah for more high-stakes but silly adventure, this time in space.