Betty Lou Blue
Nancy Crocker. Dial Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2937-7
With a text that hammers home its message in plodding rhyme, this story about being different nonetheless features intriguing illustrations with skewed perspectives. When schoolchildren tease Betty Lou about her enormous feet, her mother spouts aphorisms: ""Why everyone's perfect, dear-/ yes, even you!/ There's no one just like you-/ you're special, you see./ And each living thing has a reason to be."" But when the girl's classmates find themselves trapped in the snow, Betty Lou, whose feet presumably stay atop the snow because they are as big as snowshoes, decides to rescue them despite their ill treatment. Kulikov's characters resemble wooden puppets, each frozen in an expression appropriate for a given situation. When Betty Lou stares down at her classmates, the unusual perspectives create dramatic scenes that nicely counter the characters' static postures. A bird resembling Betty Lou's mother appears over her shoulder as the girl remembers another bit of advice: ""Dear, everything's ugly/ that's done out of spite;/ But you can be beautiful doing what's right."" Betty Lou then stares at her sobbing chief tormentor: ""Why, if I walk away, I'm as ugly as him."" Kulikov's wide-eyed characters adrift in a snowy city landscape unfortunately can't completely undercut the Goody Two-Shoes moral. Ages 4-up.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2006