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The New Girl . . . and Me Hardcover – July 1, 2006
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From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2–On Shakeeta's first day at a new school, most of the girls are eager to show her around, but Mia hangs back shyly. The next day, the fickle girls blithely desert Shakeeta to play soccer with a popular boy who refuses to include her. Left by themselves, Shakeeta and Mia gradually strike up a conversation and a friendship is born. While no unfamiliar territory is explored here, the characters are realistically and sympathetically portrayed, and the conversations and actions of the children are natural. Phelan's cartoon-style watercolors depict a realistic-looking classroom with a mix of children from a variety of backgrounds. The pale hues are nicely set off by crisp white backgrounds, and the characters' facial expressions are filled with personality and convey a wide range of emotion.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* PreS-Gr. 2. When the new girl, Shakeeta, introduces herself by telling the class, "I have an iguana," Mia is intrigued. Even so, her shyness holds her back from making overtures; later, though, when a bully bars both Shakeeta and Mia from playing soccer, the pair strike up a conversation about iguanas and the girls become fast friends. Phelan's artwork breathes energy into fellow first-timer Robbins' somewhat deliberately paced first-person narrative, populating the multicultural classroom with children who are masterpieces of button noses, play-rumpled grooming, and spot-on body language. Decisive design choices communicate emotional substance: in the climactic playground scene, Mia and Shakeeta appear on opposite sides of a double-page spread, a physical distance that makes their subsequent, cozy proximity all the more satisfying. Though it's not the point of the book, the girls' interracial friendship (Mia is white; Shakeeta, African American) is a plus. Hand this to teachers anticipating mid-year arrivals, perhaps along with Eve Bunting's One Green Apple (2006), which focuses on students new to the country as well as the classroom. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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But I think the reason for such love is that she found the characters absolutely real to her. What more can a parent ask for in a book?
This author touchingly captures the uncertainty and excitement of being new in class. It's a story about a friendship between two young girls, one attending school for the first time. When asked what her name is, the new kid answers, "I have an iguana." Though the two girls are shy and uncertain, they eventually find a way to bond over this pet iguana named "Igabelle."
The expressive illustrations are beautiful and perfectly match the sometimes comic, always touching prose. I heard about this book after a friend highly recommended it. I bought one copy, read it, and then immediately bought several more to give as gifts. This is destined to be one of the classic childrens' books!
The story is told from the point of view of Mia, who is quiet and shy. Shakeeta joins Mia's class and Mia sees as she is befriended by other girls, then just as quickly excluded. Mia remembers that Shakeeta told the class that she has a pet iguana. Mia researches iguanas and uses what she learned to start a conversation with Shakeeta.
Reasons I love this book...
-The interactions of the students are shown honestly and realistically. Shakeeta gets into a scuffle with a boy who teases her about her name, but it's not resolved. The reader has to remember that the story is being told by MIA, not Shakeeta. We don't know whether there's a resolution because Mia doesn't see it happening.
-Mia connects to Shakeeta in her own way rather than needing to overcome her shyness. Mia is never taken to task for being quiet.
-The way in which Mia reaches out to Shakeeta is so clever. It is an easily applied tactic that children can use on their own.
-There's a multicultural aspect to the story, without it being the focus.