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Review of When Sophie Thinks She Can’t…

When Sophie Thinks She Can’t…
by Molly Bang with Ann Stern; illus. by Molly Bang
Preschool    Blue Sky/Scholastic    40 pp.    g
1/18    978-1-338-15298-2    $17.99

Each of the Sophie books (When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry…, rev. 3/99; When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt, rev. 9/15) helps children come to terms with emotions and frustrations. This time, while Sophie is working on a tangram puzzle, her big sister comes along and casually solves it, commenting, “Too bad you’re not smart.” Sophie believes her, telling herself on the way to school, “I can’t do ANYTHING!” Happily, her teacher helps the whole class understand that the brain is like a muscle, which gets stronger by thinking, and she sets the students a math problem. As they start to feel stumped, Ms. Mulry says, “Now’s the time to use the Most Important Word,” which is yet, as in “You haven’t figured it out…YET.” Ms. Mulry’s supportive and energetic teaching technique helps Sophie and her classmates learn to persist, and Bang shows Sophie working her way to a breakthrough in understanding when she compares the assignment (about rectangles) to her garden at home; an appended author’s note gives credit to a friend who teaches the “growth mindset” approach. Bang uses her vibrant colors to portray blonde Sophie in a class of racially diverse and variously abled students. A little more didactic than the other Sophie books, this still presents a compelling emotional arc with a realistic child, and the math exercises and tangram endpapers may make children eager to tackle a puzzle themselves.

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke About Susan Dove Lempke

Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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