cover image When No One Is Watching

When No One Is Watching

Eileen Spinelli, illus. by David A. Johnson. Eerdmans, $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5303-5

When the narrator of this poem-story is alone, “I cheer for myself as I race near the hoop/ I soar and I score with a dunk and a whoop!/ When no one is watching, I cheer.” But when people are around—even her family—she prefers to retreat to supporting roles (“I pass the b-ball/ to my classmate Tamar./ Tamar makes the basket—/ she’s always the star”) and hiding places (“I scrunch myself down/ and pretend I’m not there”). Spinelli (Cold Snap) doesn’t craft her poem as an apology—in fact, her stylish, cute heroine (Johnson portrays her with a riot of frizzy hair and wildly unruly shoelaces) has an equally shy and appealing best friend, and their obvious deep connection and comfort in their respective shy skins should be reassuring to anyone on a similar wavelength. The paper-bag palette and mottled texture of Johnson’s (Snow Sounds) mixed-media illustrations are somewhat chilly, but he effectively employs a multiple exposure technique to give the sense that his ostensibly retiring heroine has an exuberant inner life. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)