cover image The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Justin Roberts, illus. by Christian Robinson. Putnam, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-399-25743-8

No one notices tiny Sally McCabe, but she is “paying super extra special attention” to everything around her—and what she sees is an epidemic of bullying, brusqueness, and cruelty in her school (“She saw Kevin McKuen get pushed off the slide—/ and the oncoming tears that he wanted to hide”). So Sally takes a stand, Norma Rae–style, in the lunchroom: “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff,” she proclaims, sticking her finger emphatically in the air. “Stop hurting each other! This is enough!” Children’s musician Roberts can pour it on a little thick (“She’d seen how a whisper could make someone cower/ like a bulldozer crushing through fields of wildflowers”), but his premise should strike a chord with an age group that has a strong sense of injustice, and Sally’s big moment is genuinely inspiring. (The story is adapted from Roberts’s song “Billy the Bully.”) He’s also well served by Robinson’s (Gaston) naïf, colored pencil drawings, which have a poignant expressiveness and the emotional directness of real schoolroom art. Ages 3–5. Author’s agency: Davey Literary & Media. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)