We all know that there are some kids in classes who tend to go through school unnoticed. They may be the quiet ones who follow all the rules, and academically they don’t need lots of extra support but aren’t leading the pack, either. They don’t stand out in sports or tell the funniest jokes, but they have so much else to offer. Often, they’re unintentionally overlooked, but sometimes they’re snubbed by their peers. But, they have so much to contribute, if only someone would notice.
In The Invisible Boy, Trudy Ludwig eloquently tells the tale of one of these children, Brian, a child that is invisible to those around him, until his kindness gets the attention of a classmate. Brian’s story starts by being overlooked by even the teacher, not being included in kickball teams (he wasn’t just picked last — he wasn’t picked at all), and listened to all his classmates talk about a birthday party to which he wasn’t invited. Brian feels the weight of these interactions, or lack thereof, but finds joy in drawing. So when Justin, a new student in class, is laughed at for having a different lunch, Brian uses his drawing superpowers to lift up Justin and build the first connections to bridge a new friendship. And as it turns out, just one person and one kind gesture can make a world of different to someone feeling noticed and included.
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Patrice Barton’s illustrations highlight both Brian’s invisibility as well as his transformation. She masterfully uses color, and lack thereof, to parallel Brian’s journey and the feelings of both Brian and his classmates. Pay attention to subtle changes in how Barton illustrated Brian, as well as to the endpapers.
Ludwig also includes a set of discussion questions for read-aloud and recommended reading for both children and adults.
While this has been a favorite in our house for a while, we pulled it out this month specifically to help us talk about how we can notice and include others. The Invisible Boy is one that I consider a must-have for both home and classroom libraries. Recommended for ages 6-9, but this one’s terrific for all ages young and old.
If you liked this, be sure to check out the rest of the books on our list of picture books that model including others!