cover image Number One Kid

Number One Kid

Patricia Reilly Giff, illus. by Alasdair Bright, Random/Lamb, $12.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-385-74687-8

This spirited if choppy novel marks the debut of Giff's Zigzag Kids series starring students in an after-school program. New to the Zelda A. Zigzag School, Mitchell wears his "I'm #1" T-shirt yet fears that others think he's a loser. He's apprehensive about attending the Afternoon Center and—rather implausibly—dons a mask he finds on the floor hoping no one will recognize him. As he participates in such activities as singing, swimming, and visiting a nature center, Mitchell becomes increasingly worried that he isn't good at anything and won't win an award on prize day. The humor can be strained: after misplacing the mask, Mitchell "hoped it wasn't on the floor. It would look as if a cow had run over it." Yet Giff (the Kids of the Polk Street School books) persuasively portrays Mitchell's anxieties and his rapport with his peers and with his sister, who surprises him by announcing that she's also afraid of being passed over on prize day ("He thought she was good at everything"). It's a slight story—but one with heart. Also available: Big Whopper. Ages 6–9. (Aug.)