cover image Sparkle Boy

Sparkle Boy

Lesléa Newman, illus. by Maria Mola. Lee & Low, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-62014-285-1

Sibling dynamics can often be thorny, and in Newman’s (Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed) compassionate story, Jessie isn’t sure how to react when her younger brother, Casey, wants to wear a “shimmery” skirt and “glittery” nail polish. The children’s parents and Abuelita are models of understanding (“If Casey wants to wear a skirt, Casey can wear a skirt,” says their mother), and Jessie’s breaking/turning point occurs at the library, where Casey’s skirt gets him mistaken for a girl and teased by older boys. The warm palette and smudgy edges of Mola’s (Jeremy’s Dreidel) illustrations create a comforting domestic atmosphere that almost seems to provide a safe space for the sensitive emotions at play; the children’s blushing cheeks telegraph their discomfort, embarrassment, joy, and pride. Newman’s straightforward text and dialogue offer examples of language that children and adults could use in similar real-life situations, and Jessie’s response to the library bullies might be the best of all. After being told that boys don’t wear skirts and bracelets because “That’s just the way it is,” she responds, “Not anymore.” Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. Illustrator’s agency: T2 Children’s Illustrators. (June)