ROSENTHAL, Amy Krouse. Exclamation Mark. illus. by Tom Lichtenheld. 56p. Scholastic. Mar. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-43679-3.
Gr 1-5–Through a perfect pairing of clever design and tongue-in-cheek humor, Rosenthal and Lichtenheld effectively demonstrate the function of the exclamation mark (as well as the period and question mark) in this tale about a depressed punctuation mark that just doesn’t fit in. On an unadorned backdrop of lined paper, several periods and one exclamation mark are lined up in a row. Clearly, he stands out in a crowd. Like Elmer in David McKee’s classic tale, the exclamation mark struggles with his difference and tries to blend in. When the downcast punctuation meets a question mark who overwhelms him with inquiries, our hero finally finds his voice and tells the other to “Stop!” From there, he builds his confidence in making declarative statements and leaves the group “to make his mark.” Rosenthal shines in her play on words (“It was like he broke free from a life sentence”). Lichtenheld’s minimalist style is deceivingly simple; a curlicue or crumpled line, combined with an amazingly impressive circle with eyes and a mouth, is all that’s needed to convey emotion when the exclamation mark is “confused, flummoxed, and deflated.” This fun-to-read tale will find a ready home in language-arts lessons, reminding burgeoning elementary-age writers which punctuation personality belongs in which type of sentence–without the tedium that accompanies traditional grammar lessons. This one is a must-have!!!–Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, Farmington Hills, MI