A third-grader becomes fascinated with an orphaned skunk kit and wages a campaign to convince his veterinarian mom that their family should care for the animal until it can be released to the wild.
Bixby Alexander Tam is known as Bat. In many ways his experiences are quite ordinary. He squabbles with his older sister and navigates the complications of his parents’ divorce. He doesn’t always like following school rules, and he loves animals. Arnold’s sensitive but matter-of-fact description of some of Bat’s behaviors, however, make it clear that he isn’t entirely neurotypical. When he’s nervous he repeats certain actions, like sucking on his shirt or flapping his hands. His mom notes that he has difficulty with eye contact, and a prospective friend has to work hard to connect with him. These details, along with others about family members and his multicultural classmates, bring the characters to life and contribute to the lively and engaging plot. The decision not to use labels to classify any of the characters (except the skunk, which Bat notes belongs to the family Mephitidae) encourages all readers to enjoy and connect with the events and emotions that ring true for them. In Santoso’s appealing illustrations, Bat and his sister share their dad's dark, straight hair; the whole family has fair skin.
Comfortably familiar and quietly groundbreaking, this introduction to Bat should charm readers, who will likely look forward to more opportunities to explore life from Bat’s particular point of view. (Fiction. 7-10)