An offbeat young boy, a well-liked student and an ingenious teacher meet in this debut children’s book.
Zack “Zim” Zimmerman is one of the most popular fifth-graders at William E. Zane Elementary School. He has a ton of friends, gets good grades and is among the stars of the Knights soccer team. His classmate Maralissa Lou, on the other hand, has a strange name, “two too-large ears and a small crop of unruly brown hair right in the center of the top” of his head, and a rather eclectic wardrobe. When Zim and his friends reject him, their resourceful teacher, Miss Poppycock, creates the Secret Drawer Club to make them all mingle. Poppycock puts a notebook in Zim’s desk and gives him various quests to complete with the other kids. By the end, everyone has learned a little more about each other and about acceptance. Maralissa Lou is a fun, frothy character who’s a great role model for kids: He knows he’s a bit odd, but he accepts his differences with the knowledge that they make him special. Zim is also highly relatable, as he shows that doing the right thing can sometimes be hard; in the end, he learns a lesson and becomes a better person. The prose is a bit basic, but children will be held by Holzschuh’s illustrations, although they might have been lovelier in full color. The foreword and short poem by Coker, however, seem strange additions for a kids’ book, even if the verse is about Maralissa Lou. Overall, though, Turner’s book is a sweet read for children and adults, particularly at the beginning of a new school year.
An imaginative, playful book about accepting and embracing differences.