With Picture Day looming, a girl worries because she can’t smile at will.
Willow’s nervous that Picture Day is tomorrow. Her classmates excitedly plan outfits; Willow goes home and studies herself in the mirror. Can certain clothing make her smile “picture perfect”? Willow smiles plenty; she just can’t do it on purpose. Well-meaning adults, trying to reassure her, only spotlight Willow’s exact point of worry: “Just bring your smile,” instructs her teacher, while her father soothes, “I’m sure your picture will be perfect.” Perfection’s quite a standard. Stressed, Willow pulls and tugs her cheeks with her fingers, trying to force a smile. On Picture Day, the moment of Willow’s snapshot will confuse readers: she decides that “her way of looking picture perfect didn’t have to include a smile,” and the text implies she follows through with that, but the illustration shows a smile—tiny yet unmistakable. Either way, it’s inadequate: the victorious climax shows Willow’s friends inspiring her smile from behind the camera. Howells uses bright, flat colors on white backgrounds; her characters are Photoshop figures, racially diverse (though Willow’s white), drawn in simple black lines and dots. Unlike Willow’s Whispers (2010), where it was easy to root for Willow to speak loudly enough to be heard, this is about performing emotional expression. This isn’t smile-when-you’re-ready; it’s smile-on-schedule, and the resolution undercuts its previous, apparent support for Willow’s reticence.
Not much to smile about. (Picture book. 3-5)