invisible boy

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton

Brian is invisible.  His teacher never notices him in the classroom.  He doesn’t take up much space.  He never gets picked when kids choose kickball teams.  He isn’t invited to any parties.  Brian spends his time drawing dragons, pirates, aliens and superheroes.  Then Justin joins Brian’s class.  Justin uses chopsticks at lunch and eats different food than everyone else.  The other kids laugh at him and Brian feels happy being invisible.  Brian leaves Justin a drawing that says that Justin’s food looked yummy.  Justin talks with Brian about his art, but is quickly called away to play games with the others.  When a chance comes for them to work together on a class project, Brian starts to feel a lot more visible.

Ludwig paints a vivid picture of an isolated child here.  The true success on these pages is the capturing of very subtle forms of bullying rather than the overt type seen in so many picture books.  This is the type that involves exclusion from the group rather than physical violence.  Ludwig not only captures it, she also shows just how damaging being alone can be for a child.  At the same time, Brian is bright and creative and willing to connect.  Ludwig also shows how a single child can make a difference and bring someone who is invisible into the group.

Barton’s illustrations have a beautiful softness to them.  She incorporates paper art in her digitally painted work adding another dimension.  Brian starts out almost transparent and only done in pencil with no color at all.  As he starts to reach out to others, color comes to him and eventually he is just as fully colored as everyone else.  This visual transformation nicely captures what is happening emotionally.

A superb book about bullying and exclusion, this can be used to start discussions in a classroom or with a single child.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.