40 pages 1 hour read

Terri Libenson

Invisible Emmie

Fiction | Graphic Novel/Book | Middle Grade | Published in 2017

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Summary and Study Guide


Invisible Emmie is a 2017 middle-grade graphic novel written and illustrated by Terri Libenson. The first in the Emmie & Friends series, Invisible Emmie follows a 13-year-old girl over the course of an embarrassing school day as she learns to overcome her anxiety, stand up to bullies, and make new friends.

This guide utilizes the 2017 HarperCollins Publishers edition.

Content Warning: The source material discusses bullying and uses outdated and offensive language for people with speech disabilities, which is reproduced here only in direct quotations.

Plot Summary

Emmie introduces herself as a slime puddle and says she recently had an embarrassing experience. She doesn’t identify with the stereotypical protagonists of middle-grade novels because they are all remarkable in some way, and she’s just an ordinary person. Emmie is 13 years old and in seventh grade. She is told she was much more talkative when she was younger, and she still talks to her family and best friend, Brianna, but not much to anyone else. Emmie’s parents work a lot and are not always around to guide her; instead, they expect her to be independent. Emmie is a skilled illustrator, and her drawings fill the graphic novel’s pages. These simplistic drawings have a great deal of negative space and lack vivid color. Katie is introduced next, and her life is the complete opposite of Emmie’s. She has many friends and enjoys school. Katie’s parents are always around and always having fun. Though it won’t be revealed until the end of the story, Katie is a fictional character Emmie invented. Emmie lives vicariously through Katie, who does the things that Emmie wishes she could do.

On Monday morning, Emmie wakes up dreading school. Her dad tells jokes from behind his newspaper while her mother yells from the other room; this is a typical morning scene for Emmie’s family. At school, Emmie’s stomach is in knots. She takes deep breaths to relax herself as much as possible. She sees some boys standing in front of her locker, which makes her anxious; she quietly taps one of them to move, and they move slightly, allowing Emmie to squeeze by to get to her locker. She considers it a victory, as she would normally have done nothing. Unlike Emmie, Katie comes into school smiling and confident and is immediately surrounded by a circle of friends; she looks forward to the day. Emmie only gets to see her best friend, Brianna, for homeroom and lunchtime because Brianna is in the gifted classes. Emmie texts Brianna on her old flip phone, and Brianna asks Emmie if she is going to talk to her crush, Tyler Ross. Meanwhile, Katie learns that Tyler likes her, and all she has to do is wait for him to ask her out. After her first class, Emmie waits in a long line to use the bathroom, while Katie is immediately allowed to go to the front of the line. In class, a boy named Joe Lungo sees Emmie drawing a picture of Katie and makes fun of her. Emmie says nothing, while Katie glares at him from the back row.

Emmie dreads gym class and heads there slowly. What she hates most is changing in the locker room, as she always feels like everyone is staring at her. Katie, on the other hand, does well in gym class and confidently walks through the locker room without worrying what anyone thinks about her. On the way to English class, Emmie passes Tyler and hears him laughing at her as she trips over herself. She remembers how she developed a crush on him in fourth grade when he picked up her eraser for her. In English class, Tyler asks out Katie, who is thrilled. At lunch, Emmie sits with Brianna, and they joke and write love notes to their crushes together. Emmie’s note turns out to be quite serious and well written, and Brianna says she should give it to Tyler. Emmie refuses, but she accidentally drops it after lunch, and, unbeknownst to her, Joe Lungo picks it up. Emmie starts to feel her stomach loosen up as the day goes on, and she walks a little taller. She is happy to hear that her health class will be held in the library and even happier to see that Brianna is there. Emmie feels hurt that Brianna only wants to study but settles for sketching her while she works. Brianna is bossy at times, but Emmie doesn’t speak up in order to avoid drama. Katie is also in the library, sitting with her friends and swooning over Tyler.

For the rest of health class, the students are tasked with creating a collage that represents their personalities, and Emmie’s is full of blank space, just like her drawings. Katie, on the other hand, creates a collage that is full of different interests and traits. When Emmie hears Joe Lungo quoting her love note, she feels sick and runs to the bathroom, crying. Katie appears and offers words of comfort. For the next couple of hours, every time Emmie sees Joe, he is reading her poem. Emmie crosses paths with Tyler and doesn’t say anything; Katie shames her for being so quiet. Emmie wonders if Tyler might have liked the poem but tells herself that’s impossible. Katie tells Emmie that she acts as though she wants to remain unseen, and Emmie feels terrible about herself. In Emmie’s next class, she feels like everyone is laughing at her.

Tyler no longer seems interested in Katie, who no longer feels superior to Emmie. She sees Emmie crying in the hallway but doesn’t comfort her this time. Emmie and Brianna meet up between classes, and Brianna is afraid that Emmie lost her poem too; she threatens never to forgive Emmie if she did. Emmie rushes to her locker and finds that Brianna’s poem is safe but feels hurt that Brianna would throw their friendship away over an accident. Emmie walks past Tyler and Joe, and when Joe makes fun of her, she again says nothing. She goes to the bathroom and cries once more, thinking about Tyler and his friends and about Brianna’s threat.

When she sees Joe and Tyler again, Joe insults her directly, and Emmie snaps and yells at him to stop. Tyler joins in with her, and they both end Joe’s bullying. Tyler and Emmie walk to art class together, and Tyler shows Emmie his art, which impresses her. In art class, Emmie talks with classmates while Katie sits alone. Emmie makes two new friends, Tyler and a girl named Sarah, and even manages to joke with some boys about the love poem. Emmie finds Brianna outside school at the end of the day, and Brianna apologizes for overreacting. On the bus, Emmie explains that she invented Katie to speak for her and comfort her but that she finally feels ready to let Katie go and be herself. Later on, Emmie decides to tell her mother about her day for the first time in a long time.

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