Friday, August 10, 2012

Best Friends Forever? Flabbersmashed about You by Rachel Vail

My name is Katie Honors, and I'm a really friendly kid.

I like playing with everybody.

My whole class got invited to my birthday party.

Even Arabella, who just moved here and hardly talks at all.

But my best friend is Jennifer.

Katie knows that she and Jennifer will be best friends forever. They've always been best friends, it seems. They dress alike without even planning it, like to do the same things at recess, and when it's time to line up to march back inside by twos, their hands fit perfectly together.

Suddenly one day at recess, everything is changed. Jennifer doesn't want to pretend to cook or put on shows with Katie. She wants to be a soldier who kills bad guys with Roy. Katie is like someone in the back row watching a bad movie, a movie in which she's not even a bit player. And as the final scene, when it's time to line up by pairs, Jennifer joins hands with Roy, leaving Katie--all by herself. She is flabbersmashed as she watches the final fadeout on her long friendship with Jennifer.

Suddenly my whole self felt like a bruise.

I chopped their hands apart and said, "No leaving me out!"

"You can only choose one walking-in-from-recess buddy at a time," Jennifer said.

Rachel Vail's latest, Flabbersmashed About You (Feiwel & Friends, 2012) tells this story of primary grade perfidy like it is, what seems a total betrayal to her heroine, Katie Honors, who for the first time feels herself alone, in social isolation. Elementary teachers know well that the recess field is a microcosmic stage upon which the social dramas of early childhood are writ large, and Vail's little story, illustrated charmingly in appealing faux naif style by Yumi Heo, tells the story well. Katie's kindnesses come home to roost, as the shy Arabella takes her hand as the class files in for a reasonably happy ending, but Vail's point is made, that things change, that life involves loss of friends as well as gaining new ones.

"...a fresh, inviting, and altogether useful presentation of a perennial childhood predicament from a familiar, trusted source-Katie Honors," says School Library Journal.

Other Katie Honors' stories by Rachel Vail are Sometimes I'm Bombaloo (Scholastic Bookshelf) and Jibberwillies At Night.

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