My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

Cari Best, illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. FSG/Ferguson, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-38819-5
A blind, African-American first grader named Zulay candidly shares her aspirations and frustrations in this frank, encouraging story. Best adeptly portrays Zulay as a rounded, complex character, not just a spokesperson—she’s good at math; loves to sing, dance, and be silly with her friends; and enjoys typing on her Brailler. Zulay is honest about feeling self-conscious (“I don’t like when I hear my name sticking out there by itself,” she says when she has to work with an aide, instead of joining her classmates for gym) and annoyed about learning to use the fold-up white cane, something she feels makes her stick out. Best’s prose and Brantley-Newton’s digital images exude warmth and empathy as they build to a triumphant conclusion that has Zulay working hard to prepare for a Field Day race. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/08/2014
Release date: 01/13/2015
Genre: Children's
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