Monday, November 25, 2013

The Invisible Boy - a review

Ludwig, Trudy. 2013. The Invisible Boy. New York: Knopf.
Illustrated by Patrice Barton.

With an opening that will break your heart, The Invisible Boy chronicles the school days of a quiet, lonely, artistic boy who creates his friends with paper and pencil.

Can you see Brian, the invisible boy?  Even Mrs. Carlotti has trouble noticing him in her classroom.  She's too busy dealing with Nathan and Sophie. Nathan has problems with what Mrs. Carlotti calls "volume control."  He uses his outside voice inside too much.  Sophie whines and complains when she doesn't get her way.

Nathan and Sophie take up a lot of space.  Brian doesn't.

To illustrate the above, a page bursts with brightly colored pencil sketches of Sophie and Nathan. Sophie - crying, back of hand to head, the other arm outstretched for dramatic effect. Nathan - arms raised to the sky, jubilantly shouting and joyful.  The facing page has a small, black and white sketch on notebook paper of Brian - bespectacled, hands behind his back, eyebrows raised timidly, eyes taking a sideways glance at the drama on the opposite page.  He's darling and he's cute, and his situation is heartbreakingly familiar.

Brian makes a shy attempt to befriend Justin, a new student, and it begins to look as if he's finally found a friend. When the popular kids try to make Justin choose between Brian and the rest, Justin reaches out his hand to touch Brian's shoulder to include him in the group.  As he does, the invisible boy is infused with color emanating from the touch of his new friend. He is invisible no more.

This is a wonderfully illustrated story about loneliness, and the small amount of kindness and compassion that it takes to combat it.  It is however, a shame that it takes the introduction of a new student to remedy Brian's misery.  Before sharing this one with a class, teachers would be wise to prepare suggestions for kindness and inclusion that will work within their own classroom settings.

The Invisible Boy wraps up with Questions for Discussion, Recommended Reading for Adults and Recommended Reading for Kids.

Note: Patricia Barton is also the illustrator of another favorite of mine, Mine!  

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