My Footprints

Capstone. Sept. 2019. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781684460007.
Gr 1-3–The story opens with a young Vietnamese-American girl named Thuy being laughed at again by two kids as she’s leaving school alone on a winter day. It’s clear in Thuy’s expressions how upsetting the bullies’ taunts are. Walking through the crunchy snow, she looks behind her and notices her footprints. Thuy continues on her way home “dipping the tips of her boots deep into the snow..., wanting to feel peaceful, quiet, left alone.” She reaches home to find her moms outside shoveling snow. When Thuy doesn’t want to talk about her day she storms off, making tracks in the snow like a snake. Thuy works through her emotions of anger and sadness by mimicking different animals’ footprints in the snow—a spotted leopard “that can blend into its surroundings and disappear if it’s threatened,” then a grizzly bear—“strong and brave, a bear stands up for itself. Other animals are afraid to make fun of it.” When Momma Arti and Momma Ngoc join Thuy in the backyard she asks them what the strongest animal is. When Momma Arti suggest an elephant, Thuy declares: “I want to be the biggest and strongest and scariest monster…so that if kids at school make fun of me for having two moms, or tell me to go back to where I come from, or call me names. Or bother me because I’m a girl, I can make them stop.” There it is. So begins a game with the three making footprints of their favorite animals Thuy makes up her own creature—“one that never hurts or makes fun of anyone”—an “Arti-Thuy-Ngoc-osaurus!” The story ends with the three holding hands, chanting “our footprints”, making heart shapes in the snow. Back matter includes a deeply personal author’s note mentioning his own history of being bullied. Basia Tran’s illustrations are pitch perfect and make the story all the more poignant.
VERDICT A timeless and important book that deals with the fallout of bullying and the power of a child’s imagination to overcome with the strength and support of a loving family.

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