Small, brown-skinned Lily is able to navigate her world more easily when she wears a cat mask.
“Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” The tiny child is walking next to her father, whose left hand reaches for a pink-striped shirt on a clothes rack as his right hand rests lightly on Lily’s curly head. The gentle washes of watercolor combine with not-quite-realistic images to enhance the text and create an underlying tone of nonthreatening humor. The slant of the willful preschooler’s body, for example, is exaggerated but resonates as true to life. When Lily is captivated by the only cat mask on a shelf of masks, her dad does “something unusual” and buys it for her. Lily wears it out of the store—and then everywhere possible, quickly realizing the advantages. Most adults completely humor the child, but when Lily starts school, Ms. Ito, her Japanese-American teacher, insists that Lily wear the mask only at recess time. Excellent artwork that will be easily understood by children shows Lily as shy but not ostracized by her diverse classmates. There is a bit of rebellion, followed by a bit of teacher push back, but not the meltdown that might be expected—probably because Lily is learning how to cope without the mask. The surprise ending is equally sweet and reassuring.
Shy and confident children alike will enjoy this story. (Picture book. 3-5)