Bedhead Ted

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Aug. 2021. 224p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062941329.
Gr 2-5–Ted and his best friend Stacy are not excited to return to school for fourth grade. Stacy, who is Black, is teased because of his name, while Ted, who is white, is targeted by bullies because of his bushy, bright red hair, which grows uncontrollably owing to “overactive hair follicles.” At least Ted and Stacy have each other—and their hunt for the mythical Brookside Beast, which Stacy wants to prove is real. The mission gets less fun for Ted when Tommy and Saanvi, who are friends with school bully Gary, join Stacy; fortunately, scary middle school neighbor Jayla gives Ted some perspective on the situation (and it turns out Jayla isn’t mean, like Ted assumed; she just doesn’t smile because of her braces). Misunderstanding—and reconciliation—is a theme throughout. And Ted’s hair, which has always frustrated him, turns out to be a superpower; it’s a family trait that skipped a generation, explains Ted’s grandma. With no more than six panels per page, the story has a smooth, uncluttered flow; the palette is neutral to cool, except for Ted’s red hair. SanGiacomo adeptly conveys characters’ feelings through their eyebrows. Chapter breaks are drawn as notes pinned on a corkboard, providing a visual reminder of previous story beats before each new chapter.
VERDICT Friendship and belief prevail over bullying and doubt in this mostly realistic story with a touch of fantasy. Highly recommended for middle grade graphic novel collections everywhere.

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