cover image CANDY SHOP


Jan Wahl, , illus. by Nicole Wong. . Charlesbridge, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-57091-508-6

An act of intolerance jolts a child's world in this affecting collaboration between Wahl (Pleasant Fieldmouse ) and Wong (Why Are You So Sad? ). Daniel, a pint-size urban cowboy in bright purple chaps, can't wait to spend his hard-earned allowance at Miz Chu's candy store. Accompanied by his doting Aunt Thelma, the boy confidently navigates his multi-ethnic neighborhood—even the dicier blocks where "some houses are boarded up.... There are empty lots." After gradually introducing readers to Daniel's landscape, the story's climatic revelation seems all the more shocking: someone has scrawled a slur on the sidewalk outside the candy store. The author wisely never reveals the graffiti's content or perpetrator, although Miz Chu is Taiwanese and her fearful despair points to a racial epithet. Instead the book focuses on the characters' steps to make their world feel whole again. Daniel, convinced that a cowboy would "do something," scrubs the words away with soap and water. Wahl beautifully captures the voice and psychological tumult of the young African-American narrator, while Wong's muted palette, careful ink detailing and emotionally astute characterizations serve as the story's anchors. The team doesn't offer any easy, uplifting answers to bigotry, but the modest acts of kindness (Miz Chu refuses payment for Daniel's candy, Aunt Thelma invites the storekeeper home for sweet potato pie) feel both authentic and heartening. Ages 4-9. (Feb.)