A timid hedgehog named Hal runs an impromptu race with his group of animal friends.
Ava, a spunky sheep, comes up with the idea for the race, with a course going uphill and then curving down to the finish line. Hal is worried about his short legs and slow speed, and he’s afraid the others will laugh at him if he comes in last. He reluctantly joins in and predictably falls far behind the other runners. At the top of the hill, Hal curls up in a ball and says a short prayer asking God to “help me be proud of the things I am good at.” By curling up in a ball, Hal rolls downhill to the finish line, coming in second. The short, simple story emphasizes accepting and overcoming both physical and emotional fear, and the final line is a succinct, refreshing alternative to the conventional resolution, in which the main character wins first prize. Hal just “did his best and it was enough.” Bold, cartoon-style illustrations feature appealing, bug-eyed animals and commendable attention to matching the characters’ positions within compositions to their featured order in the text. The brief prayer as part of the plot makes this most suitable for libraries in religious settings or for families who wish to integrate religion into family reading. Companion title Happy Birthday, Ava! publishes simultaneously.
It’s an unassuming, sweet story, and sometimes that’s enough. (author’s note) (Picture book. 2-5)