cover image The Brand New Kid

The Brand New Kid

Katie Couric. Doubleday Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-50030-2

Couric, co-host of NBC's Today show, pens an energetic though uneven picture book about tolerance. When second grader Lazlo S. Gasky, who speaks and looks different from everyone else, arrives at Brookhaven School, the other kids are quick to both tease and alienate him. Some weeks later, when Ellie McSnelly sees Lazlo's tearful mother, the girl makes kind overtures to him that Lazlo happily returns many times over. Ellie soon inspires others to extend a hand in friendship. Couric's laudable message of inclusion comes through. Unfortunately, however, the narrative's rhyming-couplets format results in forced, sometimes ungrammatical, phrasing (e.g., ""They arrived at his door greeted by his French poodle/ and Mrs. Gasky was there with a plate of warm strudel!"" and ""He's terrific at chess, and his Mom's really sweet./ Playing soccer the guy doesn't have two left feet""). In what appears to be a hole in the plot, Ellie's best friend, Carrie, from whom she is initially inseparable, all but disappears for much of the proceedings. Priceman (Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin) compensates by picturing Carrie even when she's absent from the text. Using softer lines and more muted hues than usual, the artist captures a full gamut of emotion, particularly in the crabby faces of taunting classmates and a beaming portrait of Lazlo at the moment he makes his first real friend. Ages 3-8. (Oct.)