Some days are hard, so Edie borrows some animal traits to get through.
Edie doesn’t want to go to school, and as soon as she boards the bus, the reason why becomes clear: Edie is bullied and feels lonely. She copes by imagining herself as other animals, her wistful “Oh, to be a squid” summing up her alienation. She is depicted with leaf antennae all day long while other classmates sport different animal features. She tries to take action as a cheetah against an antelope-horned classmate, but her efforts send her to the principal’s office. At home, Edie finally admits the truth to her mom, releasing her emotions. The text shows one explicit instance of name-calling, and readers can intuit Edie’s loneliness at school from her many solo activities and disengagement. Bergeland’s 1970s-style pencil-and-watercolor pictures in a mostly pastel color palette spectacularly capture wishful quietness with lots of negative space, expanding to rich, natural spreads at emotional high points. The characters all have skin the white of the blank paper, but differences in hair texture suggest racial differences (Edie’s hair is long and straight). Often, emojis hover above the characters, providing some evidence of personality beyond body language. At the climax, faceless characters receive facial features for a deeper view of their inner worlds.
Edie’s plight is identifiable to anyone who’s ever been bullied or who sometimes finds everyday life a bit of a struggle. (Picture book. 5-8)