cover image Suitcase


Mildred Pitts Walter. HarperCollins, $16.99 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16547-5

Xander's fellow sixth-graders and his perfect older sister Brandy taunt the artistic 11-year-old by calling him ""Suitcase"" and ""See-more"" because he's a gangly six feet two inches tall and wears a size 13 shoe. But his father's disappointment in a son who loves to draw and is always picked last at basketball stings more than his peers' jabs. With the exception of the likable Xander, the adult characters prove more compelling than the roundup of usual suspects in the elementary school cast. Into this mix, Walter (Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World) injects two powerful mentors: Mrs. Cloud, the fine arts teacher, and Jeff, the insightful coach who ultimately helps him find his own game. Although Walter maintains a buoyant tone, she also delivers some painful family truths in an authentically offhand way, such as when Xander's mother jokingly tells him that his father ""thinks you're lazy and don't want to ruin your long, slender artist's fingers."" Flavin's black-and-white drawings softly chronicle Xander's transformation into confidence and ease. Readers will cheer for Xander as he develops his talents, manages to please both his father and himself, and sends his self-doubt packing. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)