Review: And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst

and two boys booed

And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

From the author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day comes a new book all about overcoming stage fright.  A boy is performing in a talent show and knows that he is ready to sing his song because he’s been practicing and practicing it.  Plus, he also has on his lucky blue books and his pants with lots of pockets.  He is very confident until the other five children start performing their acts.  Then his mood changes, even though he still says that is he fine.  The story uses repetition that mirrors the child’s internal dialogue about his lucky pants, the pockets, and how much he has practiced, adding another line about each child’s performance and it all leading up to his.  When his turn finally comes, he is almost unable to stand up, much alone sing and two boys boo him from the crowd.  But in a final burst of determination, the boy stands and his brain starts to make sense again, and he sings.  And two boys booed, but the rest of the children cheered!

Viorst takes a universal fear of both children and adults and turns it into a very engaging picture book.  I love the modern setting of the book paired with the timeless use of a story that repeats again and again, building through the story.  It matches the nerves that the boy is feeling and creates a wonderful tension as each new person gets up to perform.  Adding in the booing children is brilliant, because that is what most of us fear, the negative reaction of the crowd.  But in the book that happens, the boy faces it and continues his performance. 

Blackall’s illustrations clearly show the boy’s emotions even as he bravely continues to repeat to himself that it is all OK.  He looks directly at the reader, conveying his surprise at feeling nervous and pulling his striped shirt higher and higher in an attempt to hide.  Blackall has incorporated a lift-the-flap component into her illustrations allowing us to peek into the boy’s pocket and at the end of the book the effect is used to propel the entire story forward in a creative way.

A smart and very human picture book about performance, nervousness and overcoming it all.  This would be a perfect book to share with children about to do a show.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.