My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 40p. Farrar/Margaret Ferguson Bks. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374388195.
K-Gr 3—Best friends Maya, Nancy, Chyng, and Zulay laugh and sing and help one another with homework. When their first-grade teacher, Ms. Seeger, surprises them with an announcement about an upcoming field day, excitement fills the air. The 22 students each announces the events they want to compete in, and Zulay surprises everyone when she says she would like to run in the race. Zulay is blind and just learning to use her cane. She does not like to stick out among her peers but is determined to accomplish her goal. With the help of a teacher, Zulay works hard to overcome the odds and achieve success. This story is inspiring and inclusive. Zulay is portrayed as a happy, well-rounded first grader, and the author pays the perfect amount of attention to her special needs. Young readers will understand the challenges that Zulay faces in getting around but also that all students face unique challenges. Bright, colorful illustrations on a clean white backdrop are crisp and clear and mesh seamlessly with the text. This story is a great read-aloud for younger students due to the length of the text, but just right as independent reading for second and third graders. This picture book is a great way to continue building diverse library collections for all readers.—Amy Shepherd, St. Anne's Episcopal School, Middleton, DE
Zulay, who's blind, is determined to race at Field Day. The straightforward depiction of spunky Zulay and her diverse group of girlfriends--"four best friends who help each other, four best friends who help themselves"--helps this story shine. Brantley-Newton's bright illustrations showcase expressive faces, welcoming readers into a world where the successes and frustrations of being disabled are noted and respected.

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