A young victim of name-calling empowers himself by imagining possible alter egos.
Three boys sit in a vast schoolyard with a crumpled daisy and crown off to one side. Brandon, with reddish hair and white skin, imagines himself a zombie with poisonous tears. Oscar, with glasses and darker skin, imagines himself to be a ghost who can swipe away hurtful words without anyone ever noticing. The unnamed narrator, a boy with blond hair and white skin, jumps in, pretending to be a vampire that sucks bad things from the air—including Sam’s mean words. The original altercation has happened off-page, so readers must be skilled in inference to understand who Sam is. Passing references to fairies and a thought bubble showing Brandon wearing a crown with a daisy tucked behind his ear imply that Sam (a girl, never seen, but gender based on pronoun choice) taunted him, spurring those previous poisonous tears. With tears now dried, the three friends decide that not a zombie, but rather a zombie prince, is the best alter ego. Melanson’s digital art is simple, rendering the children with circular heads and lean, linear bodies. Nothing clutters the gentle lesson, though at times the narrative is so obscure, it just may clutter itself.
Friendship gives more strength than any alter ego ever could. (Picture book. 4-8)