This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.
This story, by the author of The Friendly Monster (anyone spot a trend here?!) was very short (only 13 pages), and it had a bit of an abrupt ending, but it had heart, and I liked it. It's aimed at kids who are just beginning to read with confidence by themselves, and tells the tale of Sophie (the name means 'wisdom'!). It is a text-only book - no illustrations.
Sophie is in elementary school and she isn't happy there. Everyone seems the same to her, stuffy and dull. Even the name of the school is Grey Stone Day School, and she seems to be the only one who stands out with her red hair. Worse, people are mean to her and she doesn't know why. Sophie is a bit of a day-dreamer, and she eyes the monsters from the school next door - a school which shares its recess yard with Sophie's school - with envy because they seem to get along and have fun, but her school has a fear of monsters and this is why they do not share their recess time.
Sophie however, finds a colorful hat - just like the ones the monsters wear - and she's determined to return it to its rightful owner, even if it means braving the monsters at recess. Well, you know what Robert Burns said? "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley" or as we know it, go sideways! Unlike in her own school, the monsters (most of them anyway) celebrate difference, not conformity, and Sophie starts to feel like she fits right in.
I had two views of this story! On the one hand I liked it and I liked that it showed Sophie learning that you do not have to fit in to be happy with yourself; it's OK to be different. On the other hand, I wish that Sophie had done something about the bullying in her own school instead of running away from it! What to do, what to do? The book also depicts her breaking some rules and lying to a teacher, but on the other hand the teacher isn't doing anything to control the rampant meanness, and is in fact mean herself, so what choice does Sophie have?
There are different ways of dealing with problems, and running is certainly a valid one in many regards, when there seems to be no alternative and no one to turn to, but I would have liked to have seen Sophie address that; however, she doesn't run very far, just towards friends who will accept her. So is that really running?
On the other hand, I didn't like that the bullies got away with their meanness while it was Sophie who was portrayed, indirectly, as the monster (because that's who she hangs out with). I would have liked to have seen that addressed, but one step at a time: Sophie does show bravery in stepping out at recess when only the monsters are playing out there.
I think this is a great start to a book, or perhaps a series, but it felt like it was missing a bit here and there. If it were to turn into a series which shows how Sophie faces the problems and deals with them, this would make a great story. But Rome wasn't built in a day (some parts of it, like the Colosseum, just look like it was!), and I consider this a worthy read for young children, especially if it's used as a discussion springboard to address how a young child should deal with bullying and with people who just don't want to be friends.
The book references a website, www.heartlabpress.com, but the site isn't really up-and-running as of this posting. Not that I'm one to talk! LOL! I still have some serious work to do on my stuff, but writing has been calling to me of late far more strongly than dressing up websites ever does, so I can't blame an author for that! I wish Shira Potter all the best with her stories.