The Blue Vase

illus. by Josée Bisaillon. 112p. Tradewind. 2015. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781896580913.
Gr 2–4—When Sonia accidentally breaks her neighbor's vase, Marta keeps her secret—for a price. Blackmail grows into group bullying, making Sonia's life torture, until she finally finds a way to confront Marta. This well-intentioned story misses the mark in many ways. The writing is stiff, the characters are cardboard, the unrelentingly miserable events unfold more like an outline than a fleshed-out story, and the ending is abrupt. Logic is lacking: a teacher seems to know that Sonia's been eating lunch in hiding, but waits until she runs away from school to help her. The situation is resolved not through telling the truth but because Sonia discovers that her neighbor doesn't care about the vase being broken; she never even tells her parents what had been happening. Neither bully nor victim experiences growth or learning, and there is nothing here to help readers deal with bullying in their own lives. The black-and-white illustrations are stylized and quirky, not really a great fit for such a sad and serious story.
VERDICT Pass on this one.

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