Rita is a seven-year-old little girl who has two talented best friends, Emma and Lily, but feels that she doesn’t have any special talent—she isn’t a star like they are. Though she loves her friends, she wishes she could be the very best at something.
Rita begins writing her own story, describing Emma and Lily and their gifts. As she goes through her tale in four different variations, she includes commentary in between, explaining what her teacher is asking her to change about her writing. The lesson that Rita learns is the same throughout: that she will keep trying to become a star by building up atoms through nuclear fusion. By being kind and helping and encouraging others and by not giving up on her own dreams, she is becoming the best version of herself that she can be, and she hopes to shine as she gets older. What’s more, Rita is learning how to exercise her own gift: writing.
Offering an interactive experience for young readers that can be used to help them develop their own writing journey, this children’s story shows how Rita deals with not being a star today."
Rita tells her story four separate times, with each fresh revision a response to advice from a teacher to incorporate new details such as dialogue, description, and action. Rita’s final draft features bright, lively illustrations and a fleshed-out story that underscores the book’s central message: that practice is essential to success. It also suggests that Rita’s own burgeoning skill just might be writing and storytelling, which kids will recognize in themselves, too, as they work with their parents or a teacher to add details to their own stories. Fitzpatrick invites readers to copy the opening sections of the book–Rita’s first drafts–to allow children to color the pictures and add their own words in the same way that Rita eventually does.
Rita serves as a relatable and indomitable protagonist, revealing her disappointment over not being as good as her friends at singing and gymnastics but never letting it get the best of her. Her resilience demonstrates not only that failure is a part of life, even in a world that tends to worship superstars, but that it’s okay and even admirable to be supportive of other people. Most importantly, the book reminds kids never to give up, even if success doesn’t happen immediately.
Takeaway: This innovative storybook teaches young readers that everyone has a special gift or talent, but that sometimes it needs to be nurtured.
Great for fans of: Barney Saltzberg’s Beautiful Oops, Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A-