Cover Image: A First Time for Everything

A First Time for Everything

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Member Reviews

Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced copy. This was a super cute story of Dan’s experiences in Middle School and on his EF tour of Europe. Some creative license was taken to make a bit more dramatic story, but it definitely sent me back more than twenty years to my own middle school experiences, emotions, and awkwardness. I think middle school students today can still relate to these same feelings and experiences despite the 34 year difference! And it was a shocking reminder of the freedoms children had back in the 80s and 90s to do more independently vs. today— I would never let my children have the freedom to roam Europe unsupervised, and even Dan admitted the same about his own kids. How times have changed in many ways! Great story that paired nostalgia with the timeless awkwardness that is middle school.
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Dan Santat is an amazing author and illustrator.I loved having background into his life and learning more about it. The story was told in an engaging format and had me hooked. This is a great memoir.
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Middle grade students will identify and love this book.  It's a coming of age graphic memoir of a summer trip to Europe in 1989.  Santat's books for elementary school students are beloved and this book is sure to appeal to those just a bit older.
Dan is a nice boy but that doesn't prevent him from being bullied.  The idea that he feels invisible is certain to resonate with many readers and the story offers significant insight into how he feels and learns to cope.  The illustrations and artwork are vivid and expressive.  It's an overall win in all respects!
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A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat is a middle grade memoir in graphic novel format currently scheduled for release on February 28 2023. Dan's always been a good kid. The kind of kid who listens to his teachers, helps his mom with grocery shopping, and stays out of trouble. But being a good kid doesn't stop him from being bullied and feeling like he's invisible, which is why Dan has low expectations when his parents send him on a class trip to Europe. At first, he's right. He's stuck with the same girls from his middle school who love to make fun of him, and he doesn't know why his teacher insisted he come on this trip. But as he travels through France, Germany, Switzerland, and England, a series of first experiences begin to change him—first Fanta, first fondue, first time stealing a bike from German punk rockers, and first love.

A First Time for Everything is a entertaining, engaging, and relatable book. As a fellow member of Gen X, I also remember the crazy things we got away with and the independence that we were encouraged to explore- even though I would never encourage my kids to do the same at the same ages. I think the heart of the book, the explorations of being yourself and dealing with trying new things and figuring out who you want to be is something every reader can relate to. As always, Santat's artwork is just as engaging as the text and overall story. I think this is a great great for middle grade and older readers- including adults. This will hit home for many readers, and I enjoyed getting to know more about someone whose work I have always admired.
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Dan Santat brings his 13-year-old self back to life in this graphic memoir full of friends, fun, and every ounce of awkwardness common to middle school. His parents push him to venture out of his small hometown and go on an extraordinary trip to Europe during the summer of 1989. On this trip Dan navigates many life-changing first experiences. He has his first Fanta (delicious!), first kiss (awkward!), and first disco (liberating!). He makes new friends and learns how to feel comfortable in his own skin. The writing of A. A. Milne makes recurring appearances throughout the book, creating a unifying link between the author and the reader. Santat wears his emotions on his sleeve on every page. Even though he endures many challenging events for teens, he begins to find the joy of living in the moment. This is a must read for any kid grades 4-8. They get bonus points from this librarian if they also listen to the Spotify playlist the author has made from the mixtape featured in the book.
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Dan Santat shares about the summer of 1989 when he was between 8th and 9th grades and went on a trip to Europe with a few other kids from his school as well as kids from other schools. He shares how the trip changed him and helped him be more comfortable in his own skin.

Like any memoir, this took a little guts to share. And I respect that. I know several kids will identify with feeling like they’re an oddball and without hope of fitting in or finding their people in high school. The end of the book has some great advice for the kids who feel like they are hopelessly awkward or oddballs. And I love how it explores how international travel can change you for the better. As Santat notes in the back of the graphic novel, 1989 was a different time and he thinks the stuff he was allowed to do on this trip (and stuff he got away with) is a bit crazy and he’d never allow his own kids to do the same things. He states the things he mentions and thinks are wrong or not advisable. I’m glad he included that because as a teacher who helps organize school trips, several parts of his story just about gave me heart attacks (sorry, some stars lost for nightmare-inducing material). For example, the adults just let the kids wander around Paris and London TOTALLY BY THEMSELVES for several hours! They also took all the kids on the tour to a huge beer hall and served a whole glass of beer to the ones who were 14 and whose parents signed the waiver. And there’s more. It’s a miracle they all made it through the trip unscathed. That said, know the kids you hand this to and whether they’ll take it as a challenge and/or get hung up on getting away with craziness, or if they’ll take the whole thing as it is meant to be taken.

Notes on content [based on the ARC]: No language issues that I remember. No sexual content beyond a boy and girl kissing 2x. The kids also mention that there’s no clothes on anyone on French TV and the next day they are all sleepy (presumably from watching TV all night). No violence. There’s underage drinking (overseen by adults kind of, but also in a place that surrounds them with drunk people). Some kids sneak out to an adult disco place. Some European girls smoke and get Dan to try a puff (he doesn’t like it). There’s some bullying in flashbacks which explain Dan’s insecurities and is addressed.

I received an ARC of this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This graphic memoir was an amazing portrayal of growing up and reaching beyond your comfort zones.  Santat tells a very relatable and enjoyable story that follows his travel on a European trip the summer before high school.  He captures both the awe of travelling abroad but also grappling with inner struggles of growing up and coming into your own as a person.  I highly recommend this and am sure this will be a hit for summer reading.
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This is a lovely memoir of a very likable young man and is sure to be well-loved by tweens and teens. Santat authentically portrays what it felt like to grow up in the late 80s and early 90s.
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I loved this graphic novel peek into Dan Santat's middle school years. The ups and downs of his relationships with his friends and classmates were very relatable, and placing it against the backdrop of his three week school trip to Europe took it to the next level. We sure had a lot more freedom as teenagers back in the 80s! Middle schoolers who grew up reading his picture books will be super excited to see this behind the scenes look, and those unfamiliar with his work will want to read more. Highly recommended for grades 5 & up.
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Give me all the Dan Santat. I am officially on board with everything and anything he does and this one is likely the most


graphic novel memoir. As he mentions at the back of the book, there are a few experiences that he played around with time and space during his three-week adventure in Europe as part of a teen travel group experience, but it does not diminish his story in any way. I want more of these graphic novel memoirs to be true nonfiction and simply explain at the back what may have been changed to better suit the narrative. All told what this book does is focuses on a teen boy who wasn't a popular kid by any stretch, who went outside his comfort zone and ultimately had a European romance with a girl on the trip and learned to be independent and (a little) daring while drinking copious amounts of Fanta. There are several pages/panels in the graphic novel memoir that I bookmarked because they emote-- dripping with an experience that more should have (and as he explains too, what the world was like sans internet, cell phones, and digital cameras). 

And I love Santat's style. For sure.
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A First Time for Everything is a memoir about Dan Santat's life changing trip to Europe right before his freshman year of high school. This is the perfect book for anyone who's struggled to figure out who they were or come out of their comfort zone a little. Gorgeous illustrations accompany a highly relatable and funny story. Sure to make middle schoolers and teenagers feel a little less alone, and might inspire some more confidence.
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Dan Santat shares his most embarrassing middle school moments and how he overcame them and learned to be himself on his trip to Europe the summer between middle and high school. 

This was delightful. Funny, heartwarming, and perfect. Middle school kids are going to love it.
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A very sweet graphic memoir about a middle school trip to Europe. Dan Santat chronicles a variety of firsts during the three-week long trip, as he learns to set aside his anxieties and embrace trying new things. (Though some of the freedoms granted to the 13 year old characters in 1989 are a little eyebrow raising for the modern reader!) The story was well paced, and Dan’s insecurities and gradual growth felt entirely plausible. The European scenery is charmingly rendered, and the character designs are very cute. A really lovely memoir about growing up, taking risks, and gaining self-confidence.
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There are many memoirs in comic format lately, and I am extremely happy for it, because I really like to discover other people’s journey in life and I feel that the drawing say a lot about them.
Dan Santat’s A First Time for Everything is an endearing, laugh out loud funny memoir about a trip to Europe in his awkward years at middle school. Dan, bullied after losing his invisibility and being brought into focus at the end of a school assembly, is not sure about this trip, but he is about to have the time of his life. And we, the reader, are going to go with him.
I love the way the author exaggerates the expressions and the faces in a way that makes them feel even more natural (it sounds strange, but wait and see it for yourself). Dan is sweet, kind of awkward, and very clumsy, but who wasn’t at that age? His reaction to what is happening around feels unique and genuine, his first… everything a pivotal moment in his life. Different Fanta flavours serve as the nexus between different places, England, France, Germany… and the people he meets there, and the parts of himself he hadn’t discover yet, are little surprises that make the reader go forward and root for him.
It is always kind of cool when you see places you have visited (or you live on) in books, and the authors art is warm and feels very true to reality. The use of different languages make it for an interesting reading as well. In my case, I don’t understand a word of the German language, so Dan’s one-sided conversations with his elderly host were as if I was there with him, trying to grasp any familiar word but realizing that, in the end, the most important thing is to be able to overcome the barrier somehow and find a common place. 
Apart from that, I know this story is going to resonate with kids that same age, because it talks about universal problems and stages in life. And I can’t wait to recommend it to them.
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On an end of the year middle school trip to Europe, Dan Santat grew up.  It was 1989, and at 13, he was a sheltered kid who barely knew about the world beyond his town. This trip was the first time he ever traveled without his parents, and chaperones were fairly lax in the 80s! The kids were encouraged to explore cities by themselves (in groups), as long as they made it back for the bus.  Dan and his friends discover a freedom they've never had before, and in turn, realize they are capable of making really good (and not so good) decisions. A book about growing up and discovering yourself.
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Heart, honesty, and humor combine with dynamic illustrations in this graphic memoir. Back matter includes photographs of the then-adolescent author and other kids who took what, for the author, was a life-changing trip to various European destinations. Over the course of the story, he finds friendship, overcomes social anxiety (stemming largely from an earlier public humiliation), embraces his artistic talent, and ends up with a newfound comfort with himself.
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In 1989, young Dan is a Good Kid, being raised by his mom and dad as an only child. He helps around the house a lot, especially since his mother suffers from Lupus, and middle school is horrible, and he tries his best to fly under everyone's radar, which isn't easy when his teacher makes him get up in front of an assembly and read a poem, with disastrous results. His parents treat him to a three week tour of Europe with school. While this is exciting, it also puts him in close contact with people from school with whom he has a past. His mother thinks they are his friends, but flashbacks show us the real nature of their relationships. He does meet two boys, Braden and Darryl,  from another school, and has fun hanging out with them. The group see the sights in Paris and are given time to wander on their own, and Dan does some drawings, since his camera doesn't work well. He strikes up a relationship with Amy, who is from another school, and his friends goad him on to talking to her, and eventually kissing her cheek over fondue. Dan's had some rejections in the past, so is constantly surprised that Amy wants to hang out with him, too. The group spends a week in Salzburg with host families, and their adventures include going to a club, and Dan has some tense moments that involve being lost, stealing a bike, and almost not making it back to his host home. Three weeks is a short time, but for young teens on a class trip, it is enough to experience a microcosm of an entire life. Dan and Amy know that their relationship, as sweet as it is, will not hold up to long distances (especially in the age before cell phones, when writing letters was the only way to communicate!), but are glad that they've been able to connect at all. Dan returns home with a little more self awareness and confidence to face his high school years. There are notes at the end about Santat's REAL trip to Europe that include some photographs. 
Strengths: As adults, it's easy to forget that middle school students are doing so many things for the the first time. This makes life more exciting, but also more harrowing, and this lens focuses our memories in a very particular way. Do I remember much about making my 1,000th trip to the grocery store last Saturday? No, but I can remember the first time my mother sent me into the supermarket by myself to purchase a carton of eggs (which cost 79 cents) like it happened yesterday. Class trips are particularly exciting, and three weeks does seem like a long time at 12. Santat captures so many facets of this perfectly. The flashbacks to earlier times are especially brilliant. Dan's not just dealing with Amber and her meanness on a daily basis; he's constantly reliving their failed romantic past. This book also captures the hope that students this age have, but doesn't spare us the angst and self doubt, so when Amy pretends to fall asleep on Dan's shoulder on the bus, the reader can feel the tension as well as the enormous relief and joy when things go right. Even though many students won't get trips to Europe, even a rare field trip to a local art museum, zoo, or concert can create a shorter version of Santat's experience. Adults will love this because it will remind us of our past, and young readers will find the traveling to be aspirational. The artwork is fantastic as always. 
Weaknesses: Like Holm's Sunny Makes a Splash, MY life was never this good. Although I did get to spend my senior year of college in Greece, I didn't have anyone whose shoulder I could put my head on during bus trips. It's easy to forget how important this in when you're younger, so as sad as this made me, it was a timely reminder.  
What I really think: There are a growing number of graphic novel memoirs from middle grade authors, like Krosoczka's Hey, Kiddo, Russo's Why Is Everybody Yelling? Growing Up in My Immigrant Family Bermudez' Big Apple Diaries, Harper's Bad Sister, Page's Button Pusher, Sharp's Just Pretend, Soontornvat's The Tryout, Rodriguez's upcoming Doodles From the Boogie Down,  and my very favorite graphic novel, Tatulli's Short and Skinny. Do students even know that these are memoirs? Not entirely sure, but they will definitely pick it up and enjoy the vicarious traveling (and life) experience.
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Another Dan Santat success! This is a delightful read about a summer in which Dan traveled to multiple countries. I'd say that some of the light supervision that he and his classmates enjoyed wouldn't fly today! Such an entertaining read and sure to be a hit among middle and high school graphic novel fans.
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Dan Santat is so wonderful and needs so little introduction, and that is part of what makes this book so great. Dan Santat has proven his ability to write and illustrate hilarious, compelling and heartfelt stories time and time again. and offering readers a story based on his own childhood just offers an even deeper level of complexity.

I find it pretty cool that this book is being released so close to the release of Jerry Craft's 'School Trip', which is also about a school trip to Europe, and the books will almost certainly be thought of together by teachers and librarians. I love how both shine in their own way and touch on different issues that kids will face. 

Apart from the general story here, which deals with bullies, first love, making and losing friends, and finding your voice -- all of which are expertly handled -- the panel work is so. dang. good. As someone who has been to a lot of places that Dan visits in his story, the illustrations of various European locations are spot on and beautifully done. The characters have personality and are recognizable. The coloring is excellent. Several panels take on a cartoonish tone and are especially hilarious.

I cannot recommend this book enough and I think it will certainly appeal to comics readers and those who are more reluctant to engage with the format. Great for kids and adults. A+ work.
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What a treat it was to relive the author/illustrator Dan Santat’s teenage European trip.. He did a great job of helping the reader envision the entire trip and the experiences he had along the way. I couldn’t help but wish I’d had an adventure  like this before I went to high school. It certainly would have changed my worldview and confidence level  just as it did for Dan. Highly recommended!
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