Penelope wants things just-so in her life: crayons all the same height in the mug, books organized neatly, and teddy bears in a tidy row. If only getting along with her classmates were so manageable.
With a new girl joining her class, Penelope decides it’s time to make herself a best friend. Unfortunately, the white grade schooler doesn’t anticipate that Bob, as Brittany calls herself, won’t be anything like what she imagined her best friend would be. Surprised when all the other girls in her class rush to fawn over Bob, Penelope’s so frustrated that she has a gigantic, humiliating meltdown. It’s only after Oscar, a kindly and perceptive classmate that she’s previously discounted, gently eases her back into her dreadful day, and she later overhears Bob defending her outburst, that Penelope follows Grandpa George’s advice for coping—to just “go with the flow.” When that works well on an unplanned visit to Bob’s new house, she also discovers that the pair has much in common, promising a bright future. With brief text and black-and-white illustrations with informative captions (that depict a largely white cast), Perry sketches believable characters in familiar situations. One of the refreshing parts about this tale is that classmates pull back from bullying behavior, policing themselves when the situation seems ready to get out of hand.
This series kickoff is a warmly satisfying and very useful exploration of coping strategies—and friendship. (Fiction. 7-11)