by Bao Phi
Book list Thuy is bullied at school. Whether it's her Vietnamese heritage, the fact of her two mothers, or for no reason at all, it makes her angry. On her way home, she imagines herself differently. Should she be a bird and fly away or a deer moving silently in the snow? Her imagination grows about what kind of creature she can become, and she informs her moms she wants to be a big, scary monster. Learning what has provoked Thuy, they support and encourage her until finally she settles on the most powerful creature of all: ""It can fly, and swim, and run . . . it's both a boy and girl and its skin color keeps changing and it never makes fun of anyone."" Using her mothers' names and her own, she declares it an ""Arti-Thuy-Ngoc-osaurus!"" As in his Caldecott Honor Book A Different Pond (2017), Phi deeply understands both differences and family bonds. Tran's soft, rounded artwork adds an unexpected flavor to a story that goes deep into the power of imagination and empathy.--Ilene Cooper Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
School Library Journal Gr 1–3—The story opens with a young Vietnamese-American girl named Thuy being laughed at again by two kids as she's leaving school alone on a winter day. It's clear in Thuy's expressions how upsetting the bullies' taunts are. Walking through the crunchy snow, she looks behind her and notices her footprints. Thuy continues on her way home "dipping the tips of her boots deep into the snow…, wanting to feel peaceful, quiet, left alone." She reaches home to find her moms outside shoveling snow. When Thuy doesn't want to talk about her day she storms off, making tracks in the snow like a snake. Thuy works through her emotions of anger and sadness by mimicking different animals' footprints in the snow—a spotted leopard "that can blend into its surroundings and disappear if it's threatened," then a grizzly bear—"strong and brave, a bear stands up for itself. Other animals are afraid to make fun of it." When Momma Arti and Momma Ngoc join Thuy in the backyard she asks them what the strongest animal is. When Momma Arti suggest an elephant, Thuy declares: "I want to be the biggest and strongest and scariest monster…so that if kids at school make fun of me for having two moms, or tell me to go back to where I come from, or call me names. Or bother me because I'm a girl, I can make them stop." There it is. So begins a game with the three making footprints of their favorite animals Thuy makes up her own creature—"one that never hurts or makes fun of anyone"—an "Arti-Thuy-Ngoc-osaurus!" The story ends with the three holding hands, chanting "our footprints", making heart shapes in the snow. Back matter includes a deeply personal author's note mentioning his own history of being bullied. Basia Tran's illustrations are pitch perfect and make the story all the more poignant. VERDICT A timeless and important book that deals with the fallout of bullying and the power of a child's imagination to overcome with the strength and support of a loving family.—Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Thuy wants to overcome the bullies that taunt her. Graphite-and-digital color illustrations show Thuy sadly walking home from menacing bullies at school. Thuy is Asian and wears an adorable cat hat over her straight, shoulder-length black hair. Tran's bubbly cartoon style excels at Thuy's many facial expressions. In "the crisp, white blanket of new snow," Thuy's footprints begin to embody animals that she admires: "V" shapes for a cardinal that can fly from danger, deep stomps for a towering grizzly bear, and others. When her two loving parents, Momma Ngoc and Momma Arti (the former likely Vietnamese, like Thuy, and the latter South Asian), join her in this therapeutic imaginary play, together all three become a phoenix, then the Hindu Sarabha, and then a whole new creaturecomplete with heart-shaped footprints. By including colorful double-page spreads of the phoenix and Sarabha and further information about these ancient creatures in the backmatter, the book sends a powerful message about the strength children can draw from their own cultural heritage. With this story about two moms joining their daughter through child-centered play to face adversity as one, Phi explains in his author's note, he hopes to nurture the marginalized and challenge "systems of harm." Even though Thuy's repetition of the titular phrase stilts the story's rhythm at times, this doesn't overshadow the underlying message: It's good to open up to the people who love you.Both a meaningful effort toward inclusion and a solid conversation starter about bullying. (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.