Sometimes it takes meeting someone new to help us learn what we can really achieve.
Almond, a young pale-skinned girl with dark hair, encounters another, similarly complexioned young girl at school. The New Girl can play violin beautifully, evoking visions for Almond as she listens. Almond, though, is facing anxiety about being in a play and having to read lines; she is convinced that she has no talent. Her insecurities lead her to feel inferior to the New Girl and thus diminish her own abilities, though Almond’s mother assures her that she will find her way. It takes an encouraging teacher, a unique moment during the play, some crows, and, perhaps, a bit of the supernatural for Almond to discover her true talent. The story’s themes—self-confidence, believing in oneself—are universal and should resonate with young readers, yet the characters feel overly specific. The New Girl’s sudden appearance in and then disappearance from Almond's life opens up multiple interpretations that young readers may find hard to pin down. The narrative seems to jump in places, lacking smooth transitions to carry young readers through Almond’s inner, and outer, journey. Say’s unusual approach here mixes realistic photographs with often blurry charcoal and pastel techniques, leading to slightly unsettling translucency in places, with repetitive vignettes of Almond’s not-always-expressive face and enigmatic views of windows and hallways.
A slight story coupled with puzzling illustrations, this doesn’t quite hit the mark. (Picture book. 4-7)