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Review of I Walk with Vanessa

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
by Kerascoët; illus. by the author
Primary    Schwartz & Wade/Random    40 pp.    g
2/18    978-1-5247-6955-0    $17.99
Library ed.  978-1-5247-6956-7    $20.99

In this wordless, emotion-infused story, brown-skinned newcomer Vanessa is bullied by a blond-haired white boy as she walks home alone from school. The book may be wordless, but the illustrations clearly transmit that the words the boy uses are ugly ones: his mouth twists unnaturally out of shape, and the space around the two children turns an angry red. The only witness to the abuse is one of Vanessa’s classmates; this girl tells her friends about it and then, pensive and distressed, muses on the situation late into the night. The next morning at breakfast, she gets an idea: she goes to Vanessa’s house so that they can walk to school together. As they walk, hand in hand, they are joined by more and more children until an entire double-page spread is filled with enthusiastic Vanessa supporters. The bully is shown in a corner of the page, red-faced and frowning, facing the wrong direction, isolated and out of step. The watercolor and ink illustrations excel at communicating the characters’ emotions; a mix of vignettes and full-page illustrations expertly controls the pacing. Back matter includes one note for children on how to help someone who is being bullied and a second one for adults with helpful vocabulary to use when talking about bullying with young people. Purposeful as can be, but affecting and effective.

From the January/February 2018 Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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