Zulay, who's blind, is determined to race at Field Day. The straightforward depiction of spunky Zulay and her diverse group of girlfriends--"four best friends who help each other, four best friends who help themselves"--helps this story shine. Brantley-Newton's bright illustrations showcase expressive faces, welcoming readers into a world where the successes and frustrations of being disabled are noted and respected.
A glimpse at blindness, friendship and perseverance. Zulay's classroom has 22 desks, the children's name tags spelled in colorful braille dots. Three desks belong to her sighted friends, Chyng, Maya and Nancy, and they all help one another. Zulay's desk contains a "fold-ing hold-ing cold-ing" white cane, which she's reluctantly learning to use with the help of an aide, Ms. Turner. Zulay, an energetic African-American girl, is based on a real first-grader, and it shows. Like any kid, she doesn't want to stick out "like a car alarm in the night." She'd rather, she writes on her Brailler, "fly with [her] feet." She gets a chance to do just that at a field day, but can she master the cane in time? Brantley-Newton's bright colors and attention to facial expressions swiftly convey Zulay's enthusiasm, attitude and apprehension, as well as the skeptical and encouraging looks she can't see. Zulay's voice shines with rhythm and sensory detail, immersing readers naturally in her experience. Zulay's mention of learning to read braille, swim and climb trees despite difficulty will reassure blind kids whose hands are also "learn[ing] the way," and all kids will cheer as she and Ms. Turner fly around the track. A slightly raised braille alphabet on the back cover is a nice touch. Blind and sighted kids alike will enjoy this cheery outing, which appropriately treats learning to use a white cane with the straightforwardness another might treat learning to ride a bike. (Picture book. 5-8)
A blind, African-American first grader named Zulay candidly shares her aspirations and frustrations in this frank, encouraging story. Best adeptly portrays Zulay as a rounded, complex character, not just a spokesperson-she's good at math; loves to sing, dance, and be silly with her friends; and enjoys typing on her Brailler. Zulay is honest about feeling self-conscious ("I don't like when I hear my name sticking out there by itself," she says when she has to work with an aide, instead of joining her classmates for gym) and annoyed about learning to use the fold-up white cane, something she feels makes her stick out. Best's prose and Brantley-Newton's digital images exude warmth and empathy as they build to a triumphant conclusion that has Zulay working hard to prepare for a Field Day race. Ages 4-8. Illustrator's agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
K-Gr 3-Best friends Maya, Nancy, Chyng, and Zulay laugh and sing and help one another with homework. When their first-grade teacher, Ms. Seeger, surprises them with an announcement about an upcoming field day, excitement fills the air. The 22 students each announces the events they want to compete in, and Zulay surprises everyone when she says she would like to run in the race. Zulay is blind and just learning to use her cane. She does not like to stick out among her peers but is determined to accomplish her goal. With the help of a teacher, Zulay works hard to overcome the odds and achieve success. This story is inspiring and inclusive. Zulay is portrayed as a happy, well-rounded first grader, and the author pays the perfect amount of attention to her special needs. Young readers will understand the challenges that Zulay faces in getting around but also that all students face unique challenges. Bright, colorful illustrations on a clean white backdrop are crisp and clear and mesh seamlessly with the text. This story is a great read-aloud for younger students due to the length of the text, but just right as independent reading for second and third graders. This picture book is a great way to continue building diverse library collections for all readers.-Amy Shepherd, St. Anne's Episcopal School, Middleton, DE (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.