Shy Willow stands up to a mean girl in her primary-grade classroom.
Kristabelle is the boss of the class that Willow is in, and when she invites everyone to her birthday party, Willow is thrilled. But if a classmate won’t sit at her lunch table or play what she wants at recess, she will cross them off her birthday list. Mateo won’t give up his turn as Line Leader, so Kristabelle crosses him off; Julian won’t wear pink when Kristabelle demands it, so the blonde, curly-headed girl crosses him off, too. Willow then bravely crosses her own name off, and so do all her friends, leaving Kristabelle alone. But Willow sits with the formerly mean girl when no one else will. Kristabelle apologizes to the whole class, and everyone comes to her party and has a fine time. The illustrations, brightly colored on white backgrounds, with figures sketched in the simplest of lines and dots, depict an ethnically mixed classroom of children. Putting aside the sexism inherent in only boys being blacklisted (or at least, the only ones willing to stand up to Kristabelle), it’s all too easily resolved, even for the second-graders this seems to be aimed at.
There is meanness and bullying at every level in schools, and it needs to be addressed in stories as well as in real life, but they must be honest stories in which the lesson does not outweigh the tale. (Picture book. 4-8)