When a new girl shows up at school with kickball skills rivaling Ella McKeen’s, Ella learns how to tolerate the challenge to her queendom.
Everyone knows that when Ella kicks the ball, you get out of the way. “Her kicks have never been caught.” Whether it’s the “zinger,” the “bouncer,” or the “bomb,” Ella’s kicks send everybody running. But one day, the new girl, Riya Patel, races toward the falling ball. When she actually catches it, everyone cheers—except for Ella, who doesn’t handle the disappointment very well. In fact, she dissolves into a crying, screaming fit right there on the field. Everyone stares. She thinks about this moment for the rest of the day. The next day, when they’re heading out for recess, Ella opens up to Riya, apologizing for her behavior and explaining her surprise. The two form a friendly rivalry that promises to continue beyond the book’s cliffhanger end. Ella’s physical and emotional feelings are well-described and utterly recognizable. Her tantrum makes readers stop in their tracks, and her turnaround is believable enough to satisfy. Clean, expressive illustrations use white space, perspective, and display type to enhance the experience. Ella, white-presenting with long ponytails, wears overalls, and dark-skinned South Asian Riya wears skirts and leggings.
Readers will close this emotionally intelligent book with strong feelings—and will likely ask to hear it again and again. (Picture book. 4-9)