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WHAT JAMES SAID by Liz Rosenberg Kirkus Star


by Liz Rosenberg ; illustrated by Matt Myers

Pub Date: June 9th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59643-908-5
Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

A young girl can’t help but be angry when she learns her best friend is talking about her behind her back.

As the title suggests, everything hinges on what exactly James said. The pint-sized, artistic narrator heard that James—her best friend—told everyone she thinks she is perfect. But she most certainly does not! She thinks she has big feet and plain hair, and she messes up in math all the time. A misunderstanding is hinted at in the very first pages, where Rosenberg and Myers set up a visual game of “Telephone”: James tells Aiden, who tells Hunter, who tells Katie (and so forth)…. But the girl knows what she heard and retaliates by giving James the silent treatment. All day at school, James tries harder and harder to be her friend, to no avail. Until the art show, when she suddenly realizes that perhaps James said something entirely different. This common childhood struggle is enhanced by the art, which beautifully depicts the girl’s sense of betrayal. With a dripping paintbrush in hand, she throws angry splotches over Myers’ illustrations, adding her own images in wide, watercolor strokes. She and her friend, depicted realistically, are surrounded by taunting stick figures. The little girl is Caucasian with a brown pageboy; the bespectacled little boy is African-American.

Perfectly in tune with the charged emotions involved in navigating friendship and trust.

(Picture book. 4-8)