A fourth grade girl creates a magical flying machine with the help of an enchanted bird in this children’s book.
Melody, 10, loves hugs, daydreaming, singing, and storytelling. She also has Down syndrome; as she explains, “I can do almost everything other children can do, and I’m happy.” But she’s not so happy after being bullied by Robert, a new boy at school who mocks her storytelling and short stature. To feel better, Melody sits beneath her favorite daydreaming tree, where a tall creature with gray metal feathers introduces herself as “JuJu the Enchanted Bird.” JuJu helps Melody design and create a wonderful flying machine that looks like a giant snail shell powered by two dragons. At school, she swoops around in her machine, proclaiming: “I am Melody the tall and brave warrior.” Later on, Melody tells tales of adventure and magic to her enthralled classmates. Finally, even Robert comes around, saying: “I want you to know I like your stories. I’m sorry I was mean to you.” Though Melody is sad when JuJu must go, her friend reminds the girl of her strengths. In the end, Melody says, “I felt good about who I was and what I could do. I was a brave storyteller.” Melody is an engaging narrator whose cheerful affection, knack for happiness, and zestful imagination express themselves in every line. This extends even to her clothes; every outfit she wears is, in some way, her favorite. She appreciates others, delighting in her little brother’s silly knock-knock jokes. Whether or not readers have Down syndrome, most will relate to Melody’s sadness at social exclusion and benefit from the creative, self-affirming response that she demonstrates. Zina’s pencil illustrations are beautifully textured and shaded, with a magical quality that deftly matches the text.
A joyful, well-told story that celebrates the power of imagination.