The Bright Side

Penguin/Rocky Pond. Feb. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593530627.
PreS-Gr 2–A brown-haired, pale-skinned boy waves a gloomy farewell to his friends as his father steers away the family’s new home, an old school bus. Mom and Dad encourage him to “look on the bright side,” but that’s difficult to do when his showers now come from a garden hose and bread and ketchup is the closest thing he’ll have to a real pizza. The boy doesn’t even attend a normal school, until Mom decides it’s time to change that. On his first day of school, he is anxious and it’s difficult for him to sit and listen in class. He hasn’t brought any food with him for lunch, so collects leftovers from the table. The boy begins to realize that his classmates probably don’t live the way he does, which complicates the idea of making new friends. When the class hears that their much-anticipated movie and pizza party is canceled, can the boy harness the power of his imagination to help his classmates look on the bright side? Otis’s picture book delivers a glimpse into his own experience with childhood unhousedness and living on a school bus. Lively multimedia illustrations colorfully combine pencil, ink, collected textures, and digital paint to contribute subtle but powerful details that expand on the text. Approachable for young readers, this story can serve as a window for children who have not experienced housing and food insecurity and a mirror for those who know the struggles. Additionally, the boy’s creative mindset of looking on the bright side models imaginative play and problem-solving skills.
VERDICT A sensitive story infused with optimism and perseverance, this will encourage wholesome conversation with children of all socioeconomic backgrounds; it’s an essential purchase.

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