Woodson and Lewis’ latest collaboration unfolds with harsh beauty and the ominousness of opportunities lost.
Narrator Chloe is a little grade-school diva who decides with casual hubris that the new girl, Maya, is just not good enough. Woodson shows through Chloe’s own words how she and her friends completely ignore Maya, with her raggedy shoes and second-hand clothes, rebuffing her every overture. Readers never learn precisely why Chloe won’t return Maya’s smile or play jacks or jump rope with her. Those who have weathered the trenches of childhood understand that such decisions are not about reason; they are about power. The matter-of-fact tone of Chloe’s narration paired against the illustrations' visual isolation of Maya creates its own tension. Finally, one day, a teacher demonstrates the ripple effect of kindness, inspiring Chloe—but Maya disappears from the classroom. Suddenly, Chloe is left holding a pebble with the weight of a stone tablet. She gets a hard lesson in missed opportunities. Ripples, good and bad, have repercussions. And sometimes second chances are only the stuff of dreams. Lewis dazzles with frame-worthy illustrations, masterful use of light guiding readers’ emotional responses.
Something of the flipside to the team’s The Other Side (2001), this is a great book for teaching kindness. (Picture book. 5-8)