cover image Odd Velvet

Odd Velvet

Mary E. Whitcomb. Chronicle Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2004-2

This inaugural picture book for both author and artist features an oddball girl whose differences teach her classmates to appreciate their own unique qualities. On the first day of school, while the other children bring the teacher cinnamon tea and potpourri, Velvet offers ""an egg carton filled with seven rocks, her favorite red shoelaces, and a half a sparrow's egg."" Velvet sports long red braids, enormous round glasses and candy-striped stockings, and when the children notice that she is not wearing a new dress, they point and laugh: ""Where did she come from?"" But the taunting never gets out of hand, thanks to the author's restraint and pictures that exaggerate the features of all the schoolchildren. King's double spreads play with shifts in proportion, conveying a sense of Velvet's isolation. In an especially effective spread of a field trip, Velvet sits alone on the bus explaining how she got her name as the scene outside emulates her description of the day she was born: ""The sun was just rising over the mountains, and outside it looked as though the world had been covered with a blanket of smooth, soft, lavender velvet."" Her classmates' attitude toward Velvet changes when she wins a school drawing contest, and her ""oddness"" is finally appreciated. This one's for anyone who feels different or who knows someone who's different; everyone will recognize Velvet . Ages 3-8. (Oct.)