Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School

David Mackintosh, Illustrator
David Mackintosh. Abrams, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4197-0036-1
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Marshall Armstrong is anemically pale, dresses like an extra from Brideshead Revisited, eats "space food" in silver wrappers with labels ("Dog, Hot X1"), abstains from both recess and the sun (doctor's orders and "the ozone layer," respectively), and doesn't own a TV. "He prefers the paper. His dad says it gives him a good perspective." So not only is Marshall Armstrong new, he "doesn't fit in at our school. Not one bit," declares the narrator, who must sit next to this unflappable dweeb in school and is dreading a birthday party at Marshall's house. Even very young readers will guess that the narrator is in for a big surprise (hint: Best. Party. Ever), but they'll still enjoy how Mackintosh's beautifully underplayed text and genial drawings manage to be empathic to both the leery narrator and the serenely outré object of his misapprehension. Without a whiff of pedantry, Mackintosh (Rex) skillfully dismantles the narrator's defenses and bonds him to Marshall Armstrong, all the while proving that fun doesn't always fit within the confines of one's comfort zone. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)
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