cover image Be Good to Eddie Lee

Be Good to Eddie Lee

Virginia Fleming. Philomel Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21993-1

In this touching picture book, a girl discovers a new capacity for friendship when she spends some time with a neighbor boy who has Down's Syndrome. Christy's mother has told her to ``be good to Eddie Lee,'' because he is ``lonesome'' and ``different.'' Christy, however, would rather go wading with her friend JimBud than be pestered by Eddie Lee. But when Eddie Lee, uninvited, follows the two kids, Christy reluctantly includes her neighbor and is pleasantly surprised at how the afternoon turns out. Fleming's story accurately captures the attitudes and behavior children often adopt when it comes to tolerating peers who are different. Her characters ring true without being stereotypes and her message about acceptance and friendship is poignant, not heavy-handed. Shimmering with summer sunlight, Cooper's oil washes depict a lush and pastoral setting. Sensitive portraits of all three children provide a depth of emotion that supplements the spare, perceptive text. Eddie Lee's facial features clearly identify his mental and physical challenges, but his portrayal remains positive, realistic and non-threatening. This successful collaboration is a rarity for its potential to entertain, educate and encourage deeper consideration for others. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)