cover image The Cool Bean

The Cool Bean

Jory John, illus. by Pete Oswald. HarperCollins, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-295452-7

Among all the beans at Beanside Elementary School, three are cooler than the rest, according to an endearingly geeky narrator. Though the beans all came from the same pod, they grew apart as the Cool Beans became cool, and the narrator, well, didn’t: “I started thinking of myself as just a common bean with no special skills,” he says. “I’d never be a cool bean.” But when the narrator finds himself in some potentially humiliating circumstances—dropping his lunch tray, crying on the playground, spacing out in class—the Cool Beans step up and help. It’s not a flashy sort of kindness; there’s a wink, a nod, a much-appreciated dusting-off. But it makes the narrator feel supported: “Somebody had my back. Or... a few somebodies.” This feeling engenders a growing confidence that helps him realize that he can make a difference through small acts of generosity, too. This offering from the creators of The Bad Seed and The Good Egg creates endearing characters in both the charismatic Cool Beans, with their swagger and sunglasses, and the less self-assured, roly-poly narrator. Avoiding overly heavy messages about kindness, this story, with its easygoing empathy (and very silly bean-related wordplay), feels like a heartfelt conversation among equals. Ages 4–8. (Dec.)