cover image Becoming Vanessa

Becoming Vanessa

Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Knopf, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-525-58212-0

Vanessa, a Black child with round blue spectacles, has first-day-of-school jitters. Attempting to show her classmates that she’s a special “someone they should know,” Vanessa dons a frilly multicolored tutu, yellow boa, and a green beret, paired with polka dot leggings and new red shoes. But as soon as she arrives at school, she runs into difficulties: her more simply dressed schoolmates don’t “get” her outfit, and she finds that her name is “long and hard to write.” Vanessa returns home dismayed, but a parentally bestowed revelation helps change her outlook. Brantley-Newton employs simple, rhythmic prose from the third-person perspective: “This day wasn’t special. Her outfit wasn’t special./ And neither was Vanessa.” Multimedia illustrations construct a cheerfully colored world and classroom populated by children of varying skin tones. A hopeful celebration of individualism and an ode to recognizing one’s inner specialness. Ages 3–6. (June)