tr. from Dutch. illus. by Guido van Genechten. 32p. Clavis. Jun. 2018. Tr ISBN 9781605373775.
PreS-K—Johnny the spider wants to celebrate his birthday with others, but everyone he approaches doesn't even give him the chance to ask. Upon seeing him, all manner of small critters, shriek, call him cruel names, and run away, leaving Johnny to eat his cake alone. The narrator paints this sad portrait of a kind individual who is misjudged in order to teach readers empathy. His final line directly addresses them, too, requesting that they look past their preconceptions. Johnny doesn't get a happy ending, even though he gets over his tears rather quickly. The book offers a good jumping off point for discussing how people form their opinions of others. However, there is another topic, which the author ignores, which needs to be addressed when the goal is empathy. During the course of the story, the other critters say a lot of mean things to Johnny. He doesn't seem particularly bothered by this, which is a reaction that is not true to life. Adults would do well to talk about how hurtful this is with kids, explaining why it is unacceptable. Johnny's friendly illustrations are painted on newspaper, which adds some extra dimension to the fairly simple designs.
VERDICT A decent message to share, but will require supplemental discussion to truly teach toddlers about empathy.

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