Second Banana

Abrams. Aug. 2020. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419742347.
Gr 1-2–The “Food Is Fun Healthy Eating Good Nutrition Pageant” is about to begin. The narrator is a small white child with a mass of curly brown-red hair who is beyond excited to be in the pageant and cannot wait to get a part. The problem is that there is one child extra in the classroom this year, and so while there will be one Cheese, one Eggplant, one Pea, and one Sugar, there will be two Bananas, splitting the part. Our hero’s partial line is, “. . . has potassium, too.” And that’s it. The disappointment is real, and Second Banana experiences an array of emotions, but what emerges is true empathy at the discovery that First Banana doesn’t want to go on stage at all. Punning aside (it’s “an a-peeling” part, reports the father), this picture book ticks so many boxes in the realm of social-emotional learning that it will be useful across curricula. The illustrations keep the mood light, but Second Banana’s emergence from self-centered to compassionate and can-do is an epic journey in very few pages.
VERDICT A necessary purchase that looks effortless, reads beautifully, has worthy messages, and is as sweet as the Sugar, which is “used sparingly.”

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