A girl moves from instigator to bystander to hero in this anti-bullying picture book originally published in Belgium.
Neither text nor art (rendered in a limited, multimedia palette of neutral tones, black and red) reveals why Tommy blushes, but the narrator notices and thinks it’s funny that his cheeks are red, and she laughingly points at him. This exacerbates his embarrassment, which only grows as the girl laughs and whispers about his red cheeks with other children. A boy named Paul is particularly vicious in his taunting, and the narrator soon grows uncomfortable with how she and the others are behaving, especially as they crowd around and Paul pushes Tommy. Fearful about becoming Paul’s next target, the girl stays quiet even when the teacher asks the class if anyone saw what happened. Repeated entreaties work, however, and she finally raises her hand, spurring other classmates to join her. The narrative skips over how the teacher handles the situation and instead shifts to show Paul confronting the narrator on the playground. His bullying ways are thwarted when other children stand with her, and his face grows green as he skulks away. The story then concludes, not with Paul learning a lesson, but with the girl and Tommy reconciled and playing soccer. Expressive art outshines the text, which, while heartfelt, gets weighed down by message.
Moral trumps story here. (Picture book. 5-8)