cover image Big Red Lollipop

Big Red Lollipop

Rukhsana Khan, , illus. by Sophie Blackall. . Viking, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-670-06287-4

Khan (Silly Chicken ) delivers another astute and moving story, ostensibly dealing with sibling rivalry, but actually about hard-won lessons emerging from clashes of identity and assimilation. When Rubina receives her first invitation to a birthday party, her mother, who readers are left to infer is an immigrant, is first perplexed (“What's a birthday party?... Why do they do that ?”), then insistent that Rubina take her annoying younger sister along, even though Rubina pleads, “They don't do that here!” The result, in Khan's characteristically direct prose, is devastating: “I don't get any invitations for a really long time,” says Rubina, and Blackall's (Wombat Walkabout ) subtly textured ink portrait shows every nuance of the girl's sense of social failure. But Khan's remarkable gift for balancing emotional honesty and empathy, and her keen understanding of family dynamics, keeps defeatism from swamping the book. Rubina turns her experience into wisdom and gains her mother's respect as a mediator between cultures. It's an ending worthy of a novella, and once again signals that Khan is one of the most original voices working in picture books today. Ages 4–up. (Mar.)