Van Gool’s vivid and polychromatic illustrations give depth to the storyline and illuminate Irma’s inner struggles, drawing readers’ attention to the minor eccentricities—from her showy socks and shoes to her distinctive bracelets—that make her stand out from her peers. Despite feeling forced in some sections, Donnelly’s rhyming prose lightens an otherwise heavy topic for kids who have been ostracized for their differences and adds an element of fun to some uncomfortable social situations. Irma’s attempts to conform to the expectations of her teacher, in spite of her very real physical struggle during assigned tasks, is painful to watch and will elicit compassion and empathy in readers.
Donnelly brings gentle attention to tangible challenges that many youth and adults face, both in the overt example of dairy intolerance and in the more hidden theme of being shunned and excluded for individuality and distinctiveness. The parallel theme of perseverance, even in the face of ridicule and seeming failure, sends a message of hope and optimism to a young audience. Irma’s eventual success, earned by channeling her unusual talents and creative thinking, will resonate with readers as a victory for underdogs and a method of celebrating uniqueness. Though simple in its presentation, this unconventional tale revels in what makes each of us exceptional.
Takeaway: This playful tale celebrates individuality and pays tribute to the power of perseverance.
Great for fans of: Maria Dismondy’s Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun, Julia Finley Mosca’s The Girl Who Thought in Pictures.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: C