cover image Everything in Its Place: A Story of Books and Belonging

Everything in Its Place: A Story of Books and Belonging

Pauline David-Sax, illus. by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow. Doubleday, $17.99 (40p)

Instead of heading out to recess, where “everyone’s found their group,” young Nicky, who reads as Black, prefers shelving books at the school library, where “everything has its place.” When she learns that the library will be closed for a week and she’ll have to join recess during that time, “my stomach starts to hurt.” But at her mother’s restaurant, where “it’s all right to be alone,” she encounters Maggie, a poetry-loving biker who subsequently arrives with her “motorcycle sisters,” members of “all different colors,/ shapes,/ sizes” who seem comfortable in their own skin. Watching them, Nicky realizes that individuality isn’t synonymous with isolation, and that belonging doesn’t demand conformity—people can be “all so different but together, too.” This epiphany follows her to the playground, where, with the help of a Mary Oliver volume from Maggie, the recess she’s been dreading instead becomes an opportunity to make a new, book-loving friend. Using emotionally astute prose and collage art that resembles a personal scrapbook with crayon-textured sketches, debut author David-Sax and Pinkney Barlow (The Real Santa) honor their protagonist’s rich interiority, never minimizing Nicky’s pain or yearning, nor her preference for books and (some) solitude. Ages 3–7. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (July)