Me and Rolly Maloo

Janet S. Wong, illus. by Elizabeth Buttler, Charlesbridge, $15.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-58089-158-5
Wong and Buttler thoughtfully explore thorny social and ethical dynamics in this graphic novel/prose hybrid. At home with her single mother, who stuffs envelopes to make ends meet, fourth-grader Jenna is shocked when popular girl Rolly Maloo telephones her. Thanks to an opening cartoon in which Rolly contemplates calling Jenna ("Not that she's not nice. But like Mom says, she's odd"), readers will already know what Jenna suspects: it's too good to be true. Rolly, at the urging of a friend, is seeking help for a math test, and Jenna gets caught passing back a note to Rolly during a test the next day. Jenna knows cheating is wrong, but her rationalizations for helping Rolly ring true: "Maybe helping Rolly Maloo with a math answer would be called charity. And instead of calling her a cheater, maybe you could call her someone who is smart enough to ask for help." Buttler's b&w illustrations adeptly broadcast characters' emotions and substantially broaden the story's scope by revealing that adults (the students' parents and teachers) can be as cliquish and conflicted as the children. Ages 7–10. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/19/2010
Release date: 07/01/2010
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