Review: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

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.

Review: Line 135 by Germano Zullo

line 135

Line 135 by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine

The duo that created Little Bird have returned with another lovely and fanciful story.  A little girl travels by train to her grandmother’s house.  The train starts out in the towering city and we are told at the beginning that her grandmother lives in the country.  The train travels from crowded cityscapes into more residential areas.  The little girl talks about all of the traveling she wants to do when she gets older.  As the pages turn, the landscape changes and eventually becomes very odd.  Flowers grow as tall as the train, strange creatures stand near a pond, then the pond itself looks very much like a beast of some sort and readers will know that they are on a surprising trip too.

Imported from Switzerland, this book starts out as a quiet thoughtful book about being comfortable living in both the city and the country and a love of travel.  Zullo’s text never changes from that musing tone, but it does speak to the right of a child to have opinions about how they want to live their lives. 

The girl’s dreams and imagination come to life in the illustrations.  The train is the sole zip of color on each page, while the surroundings are entirely in black and white fine-lined drawings.  They are detailed and lovely and the change from reality to dream world is done slowly and with deft pacing. 

This is a book that makes you want to start back at the beginning the minute you finish it so that you can see even more in the drawings.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.