A glimpse at blindness, friendship and perseverance.
Zulay's classroom has 22 desks, the children’s name tags spelled in colorful braille dots. Three desks belong to her sighted friends, Chyng, Maya and Nancy, and they all help one another. Zulay's desk contains a "fold-ing hold-ing cold-ing" white cane, which she's reluctantly learning to use with the help of an aide, Ms. Turner. Zulay, an energetic African-American girl, is based on a real first-grader, and it shows. Like any kid, she doesn't want to stick out "like a car alarm in the night." She'd rather, she writes on her Brailler, "fly with [her] feet." She gets a chance to do just that at a field day, but can she master the cane in time? Brantley-Newton's bright colors and attention to facial expressions swiftly convey Zulay's enthusiasm, attitude and apprehension, as well as the skeptical and encouraging looks she can't see. Zulay's voice shines with rhythm and sensory detail, immersing readers naturally in her experience. Zulay's mention of learning to read braille, swim and climb trees despite difficulty will reassure blind kids whose hands are also "learn[ing] the way," and all kids will cheer as she and Ms. Turner fly around the track. A slightly raised braille alphabet on the back cover is a nice touch.
Blind and sighted kids alike will enjoy this cheery outing, which appropriately treats learning to use a white cane with the straightforwardness another might treat learning to ride a bike. (Picture book. 5-8)