A bully causes a group of kids to find a solution to their playtime dilemma.
Ever since Emma’s arrival, Ana’s been isolated from her longtime friends, rumored about cruelly, and made to give up her lunches. Fearing the embarrassment of tattling, Ana suffers in silence—until her friends get the same kind of treatment and decide, one by one, to form their own play group. Despite threats, the group grows bigger each day until Emma is left alone and must sheepishly ask to join them all. This timely book about bullying and power dynamics unfortunately falls short on nuance and ends abruptly. The lesson from Spanish author and kindergarten teacher Serrano seems to be that kids should wait a bully out instead of getting an adult involved. And Emma herself is presented only as a frowning ball of anger and spite; it’s unclear what her motivations are and how, as a new kid in school, she was able to take control so easily. What both the English and simultaneously publishing Spanish versions of the book do get right, though, is the feeling of being trapped in an uncontrollable school power dynamic, illustrated with plenty of sweat and frowns. There’s the gulps, the tummy aches, the anxiety of feeling picked on and singled out. Emma presents white, Ana has brown skin, and the other kids are diverse.
Thin characterization and an unsatisfying ending make this one to miss. (Picture book. 4-8)