The team behind the Caldecott Honor book Coming on Home Soon delivers a doozy of a picture book about the insidious consequences of bullying.
Maya shows up at school on a snowy winter morning. The teacher, Ms. Albert, asks the children to greet Maya, "But most of us were silent," observes narrator Chloe. When Maya smiles at Chloe, Chloe moves her chair away. Lewis places readers outside the window looking into the classroom, evoking what Maya must be feeling--the sense of being left out in the cold. They turn down Maya's invitation to play jacks and pickup sticks. On a warm day when Maya wears "a pretty dress and fancy shoes," one child calls her "Never New" because the outfit looks secondhand. The next day, Maya does not show up at school. Ms. Albert asks each student to think about how kindness ripples out, like dropping a small stone in a bowl of water. The children report the kind things they've done. All except Chloe, who "couldn't think of anything and passed the stone on."
Woodson perfectly captures that feeling of belonging that comes from turning someone away from the sacred circle--as well as the hollow feeling that follows when you're alone with your conscience. Woodson and Lewis inject a sense of hope through Chloe's sense of remorse. We believe she will do things differently next time. The emotional honesty of Chloe's narrative and Lewis's ability to mirror her mood through her surroundings make this an ideal tool for self-reflection. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness