"Warm, funny, and a visual delight, Steenz's take on Heart of the City is next-level." –Dana Simpson, Phoebe and Her Unicorn
This first book collection of Heart of the City comics by the strip’s new creator, Steenz, is packed with outstanding art, a diverse cast of characters, and engaging, positive storylines about friendship, pop culture, ghost stories, and a wide range of real-world issues.
Heart Lamarr is a girl with big dreams who lives in Philadelphia with her single mom. She has her sights set on a life of theater, but she runs into plenty of drama off-stage, too. Luckily, her best friends Dean, Kat, and Charlotte form a stellar supporting cast to help Heart navigate the challenging world of school plays, cliques, rumors, and everything else middle school throws at them.
Gr 4-8 – Philadelphia-based middle school student Heart Lamarr leads the life of a typical middle-class teen: making new friends; going to sleepovers, parties, and concerts; and begging her mother to let her get her ears pierced. But what she’s most interested in is starring in the next school play, if only she can stay out of detention long enough to audition. This graphic novel is a compilation of strips from the daily syndicate of the same name—created by Mark Tatulli in the late 1990s and taken over by Steenz in 2020—which gives it a page-by-page episodic feel, while also maintaining a longer story arc that is sporadically interrupted by an out-of-sequence, single panel. However, because the source material is an ongoing story, the graphic novel ends abruptly. The characters are modernized and older than who they debuted as in the 1990s, but Heart doesn’t stray far from the mostly harmless rascal-next-door character popularized by comics of yore (Dennis the Menace, Calvin and Hobbes, etc.). Blues, gray, and beige dominate, with pops of warm colors (red, pink, orange) that complement the minimalist backgrounds and solid line work, as well as the characters’ rounded, full designs. Characters are diverse in terms of body type and LGBTQIA+ representation. Heart is white, her friend Charlotte is Black, and some background characters present as BIPOC, though many appear to be white.
VERDICT Readers who enjoy slice-of-life stories that focus on friendship will appreciate Heart’s story, which subtly and naturally offers positive diverse representation. (Alea Perez, School Library Journal)