A story inspired by a real-life effort to achieve social inclusion.
Rhyming text enriched by energetic, cartoon-style illustrations follows the diverse students in Miss Mellon’s class at recess. Most of the children dive into play with peers, but some feel timid or excluded. Those at play are initially oblivious to the discomfort of the others, but then a child named Jake notices someone using a crutch and hanging back from play. “ ‘It’s my leg,’ said Gabe. ‘I can’t run in a cast, / so I never get picked, not even last.’ ” Affable Jake responds, “Come play with us anyway. There’s time to spare,” causing Gabe to reply, “Wait a minute …I’ll be right there.” This interaction creates a compassionate domino effect of inclusion, with Gabe reaching out to another kid on the sidelines, and so on. When the children (and, oddly, an elephant and dragon) go inside after recess they ask, “how could we say, / without using words, that we all want to play?” Miss Mellon says they need “a seat / to wait for a friend or a buddy to meet.” It’s unfortunate the solution—the eponymous buddy bench—originates with an adult rather than the compassionate children themselves, especially since the author’s note reveals that it was a first grader who proposed the first one in the United States, but the generosity on display is heartening.
Inviting. (Picture book. 5-7)