Newbery Honoree Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts, 2004) and Caldecott Honoree Sweet (A River of Words: The Story of Williams Carlos Williams, written by Jen Bryant, 2008) combine talents to tell the appealing tale of Jackson, a rather large rabbit, who is struggling with the often embarrassing, nerve-racking and exhilarating feelings of his first crush.
Valentine’s Day is coming, and Jackson’s friend Cooper notices Jackson is acting differently: He stuffs a special valentine with chocolates, brings a flower to school that then disappears and worries that rival Carter is cute classmate Cami’s boyfriend. As narrator Cooper learns what is troubling his buddy, the bright-hued mixed-media pictures effectively capture the nuances of the interpersonal dynamics at play. Readers feel Jackson’s flushed cheeks turning “red as a wrong-answer pencil” and relate to his hands-on-head anxiety when Cami receives his valentine. Setting this apart from other holiday fare is the friendship between Jackson and Cooper. When Carter taunts Jackson by calling him a giant, all Cooper sees is a good pal lacking confidence to listen to his heart. Cooper encourages Jackson to be brave; the result is a lovely “two-person soccer [game]”…played “all recess long.”Share this along with the author’s previous titles: How to Make Friends with a Giant, illustrated by Amy Walrod (2006), and Louder, Lili, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (2007). Each addresses issues that affect self-esteem in a gentle, entertaining way. (Picture book. 4-7)