Even in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals of all sorts, Agatha stands out.
She has her mom’s piggy ears and her dad’s bearish nose, and even at family gatherings, she doesn’t quite fit in. At her first birthday party, all the bears from her dad’s side of the family stand on verso, and all the pigs from her mother’s side stand on recto, with a smiling Agatha in the middle. Standing among her easily identifiable, unispecies kindergarten classmates, she realizes she’s “a little different from everyone else.” When their teacher asks each of her students what makes them special, Agatha is so mortified that she hides. But everyone misses her, and when she pops out from her hiding place, her classmates find many things about her special: most of all, Agatha is best at “being Agatha.” The illustrations resemble pencil drawing with touches of color, and the animals look more alike than different, which may be the point. The story doesn’t have much of a dramatic arc; celebrating Agatha’s difference is its main point. Agatha herself is certainly endearing, with her green dress and red shoes and winsome expression, but a teacher asking each child what makes them special—using the tired “special snowflake” cliché—is an idea fraught with pitfalls.
Though it’s certainly well-meaning, it lacks the wit that brings such schoolroom dramas as Kevin Henkes’ and Peter McCarty’s alive. (Picture book. 4-7)