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The Golden Hour by Niki Smith.jpgKids All Iowa Reads Program Resources

The 2023 All Iowa Reads selection for kids is The Golden Hour by Niki Smith.

About the Book

Struggling with anxiety after witnessing a harrowing instance of gun violence, Manuel Soto copes through photography, using his cell-phone camera to find anchors that keep him grounded. His days are a lonely, latchkey monotony until he's teamed with his classmates, Sebastian and Caysha, for a group project.

Sebastian lives on a grass-fed cattle farm outside of town, and Manuel finds solace in the open fields and in the antics of the newborn calf Sebastian is hand-raising. As Manuel aids his new friends in their preparations for the local county fair, he learns to open up, confronts his deepest fears, and even finds first love.

Book Discussion Questions

  1. How does the artwork change when Manuel starts to have a panic attack? Why does the author show this?
  2. During a therapy session, Manuel’s therapist says, “When the world feels unstable, find an anchor.”  What is your anchor that keeps you grounded?
  3. Why do you think Manuel feels “grounded” when he uses the camera? 
  4. Anxiety is a crucial element in Manuel’s story. Have you ever experienced a time when you were anxious?
  5. When Ms. Winstone visits the classroom after the incident, why doesn’t Manuel hug her at first?
  6. How does Manuel’s friends, Caysha and Sebastian support Manuel when he experiences anxious moments?
  7. Sebastian takes pride in raising his baby calf, Daisy. What is something you take pride in? 
  8. What images from The Golden Hour were your favorite? 
  9. Would you recommend this graphic novel to a friend? What would you tell them about it? 
  10. Would you consider reading a graphic novel again? Why or why not?

About Author Niki SmithNiki-Smith.png

Niki Smith is the author/illustrator of The Deep & Dark Blue and is a cartoonist based out of Munich, Germany. She is a Lambda Literary Award nominated author for Crossplay, has been digitally published by DC Comics and The Nib, and has contributed to the Lambda Literary Award-winning Beyond anthology. You can find out more about the author at

Reviews and Interviews

Reviews and interviews with Niki Smith and other information about The Golden Hour:

  • We Need Diverse Books Interview with Niki Smith

  • "What makes Smith’s work so meaningful and impactful is the role of friends in helping to ground and encourage Manuel’s healing after he experienced such a terrifying situation. Young people need to know the lessons this book seeks to impart." 
    - School Library Connection, starred review

  • "Smith weaves a beautiful story of resilience and the sweet onset of first love... A stunning work of self-discovery, vulnerability , and finding beauty beyond tragedy."― School Library Journal, starred review

  • "Strong, good-natured characters and an endearing representation of young queer love round out a mighty sweet tale.... Exceptionally graceful and delightful."— Kirkus Reviews, starred review

  • "Manuel’s resilient determination to reclaim a new but satisfying normal out of his mind-spinning ordeal makes a compelling arc that is sure to keep readers engaged."― Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

  • 2022 Kirkus Prize Finalist

  • Kirkus Best Books of 2021

  • School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2021

  • New York Public Library’s Best Books of 2021

Other Readalikes For Further Reading: 

  • Living with Viola by Rosena Fung
  • The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga
  • The Lost Things Club by J.S. Puller

Find Copies of The Golden Hour to Borrow

Find out which Iowa libraries have copies of The Golden Hour to borrow, or find out how to request sets for discussion groups.

Find in Iowa Libraries:

Find on Bridges: Iowa's eLibrary:

Multiple Copies for Discussion Groups: