Belinda knows how to win and does it often, but she also understands the value of a good friend.
The confident, brown-skinned, cornrowed protagonist of this wordless graphic adventure leads the line to the school gym until she sees another, dejected-looking brown girl sitting on the hallway floor. Foreshadowing things to come, Belinda relinquishes her line-leader role to offer the surprised girl her hand and make her feel included in the game of musical chairs. While the teacher observes only a mundane game, readers and the players witness an extraordinary, larger-than-life competition in which huge, multicolored musical notes become flying obstacles that sometimes antagonistically interfere with the players as they rush for seats when the music stops. Allegiances form and dissolve, but Belinda remains true to her new friend, Barbara (whose name appears only in the rear endpapers), until the end of the game. The book’s cartoonish cover suggests a lighthearted story, but the tale delivers rich conflict (including person-versus-self on several occasions), strong emotions, complex relationships, and ferocious competition. Roberts uses framing, varying perspectives, close-up images, and stark, contrasting facial expressions to help readers absorb both the action and the characters’ emotions as the story unfolds. Refreshingly, colorist Silva renders the children of color with different skin tones.
An excellent adventure for reluctant readers, fierce competitors, lovers of wordless tales—and readers who just love an action-packed, rollicking story. (Graphic fantasy. 7-12)