A young boy wakes up on the morning of the talent show ready to sing his song. He has practiced “a billion times” and is wearing all his lucky clothes. There are five other kids in the show, all scheduled to perform before he does. As he waits, however, he gets increasingly nervous, even forgetting what it was he was planning to do. But finally, he comes through in the clutch and sings his song. Two boys boo, but all the other kids were clapping.
Discussion: Three aspects of this book in particular will to appeal to its intended audience of children aged 4-7. One is the sing-song repetition of the text, which builds on each page (think of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”). A second is the inclusion of a number of flaps and pockets that add to the story in subtle ways. (For example, in one picture in which the boy looks frightened, you lift the flap over his lucky pants and lucky boots, and you see a different pair of pants and boots, conveying his sense of nervousness and uncertainty.) Last but not least is the talent of illustrator Sophie Blackall, who turns any story into something extra special.
On the other hand, the story ends rather abruptly after the two boys booed but the rest of the class clapped. What about those boys? Were they bullies? Rivals? How did the young boy who is narrating feel about the booing? What happened to the hecklers and what did the boy conclude about his practicing and lucky clothes?
Evaluation: This is a charming book (mostly thanks to the wonderful illustrations by Sophie Blackall), but to my thinking could have used a few more pages to the story at the end.
Note: In response to an interview question about how she came to write this book, Judith Viorst told a most amusing anecdote:
“My inspiration was my granddaughter Olivia, daughter of Alexander, who came over to my house one afternoon after a talent show at her summer day camp. When I asked how her portion of the talent show had gone, she replied, ‘Two boys booed.’ To my shame I didn’t immediately offer her a hug and sympathy. Instead, my first response was, ‘Great book title!'”
Published by Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan, 2014