Alluring, edgy watercolors with sharp angles show a tyke’s transformation from mild to monstrous and back again.
“Millie was too short to be tall, too quiet to be loud, and too plain to be fancy.” Pink-cheeked and limp-haired, Millie feels like nothing special. She’s ignored and harassed. Schoolmates tromp on her chalk sidewalk picture, walking “all over her flower, and over it, and over it, until it [i]s nothing more than a big, multicolored smudge.” Such bullying is beyond tolerance, and Millie Fierce emerges. From downcast and slouchy, “feeling like a smudge” herself, Millie becomes upright, hands on hips, eyebrows aggressively slanted. She “frizze[s] out her hair and ma[kes] the crazy eye.” She demands that grandpa “Look at me and my ferocity!” But Millie’s assertiveness ratchets too high. She flicks food, paints the dog blue, howls at a nonplussed moon and becomes a bully herself. Coming unsurprisingly full circle, Millie concludes that “she likes being good better than being fierce.” Manning’s intense colors feature fine and pointy details, and her paintings warrant more than a quick glance. It’s too bad that Millie’s symbolically fierce hairdo is a common style for curly-haired kids.
The spiky, colorful art is more interesting than the plot, but Millie’s fierceness in the middle will speak both to tots who’ve tried it and those who haven’t. (Picture book. 4-7)