Two opposites may not be as opposite as they imagined in Mann’s look at grade school cliques and oddballs.
Ginger wants to invite all the girls in her class but Lyla Browning to her birthday party. Lyla wears drab clothes and glasses, and her affection for insects (not to mention pet tarantula) is certainly unpopular among Ginger’s crowd of friends. But Ginger’s mom says it’s all or none, so Lyla’s invited too. But Ginger’s friends turn out not to be the best party guests, doing whatever they want and ruining the games. At this point, Lyla is just part of the background with her ever-present magnifying glass. But that changes when she is the only one to appreciate the much-anticipated “silver-and-gold cake.” And Lyla’s present turns out to be the most thoughtful of all—a handmade bird’s nest with two speckled malted-milk eggs in the center (two peas in a pod, anyone?)—and the start of a lasting friendship. Mann’s pencil, gouache and digital collage illustrations keep the focus on the girls, their bright clothes and accessories standing out against the white background. The placement of characters in page composition plays a large part in getting Mann’s message across, girls either center stage or relegated to the background (if they’re even on the page at all!).
Readers may not look at their classmates the same again. (Picture book. 5-8)