Loving this wonderful review from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books!
Something really horrible has been written on a wall in the girls’ bathroom, and now the school is responding. In a meeting with the principal, the girls all wonder, “What is the bad-something? Who did it? And what will happen next?” A few girls barge into the now off-limits space to find unquoted but clearly hateful words, and soon the information spreads (to parents as well as to students) and everyone starts suspecting their classmates. Then the school pushes back with a collection of positivity initiatives, including having the students all repaint the bathroom with a mural of their own design: though the bad-something was still there, “We changed it when we covered that wall with our good-somethings.” Listeners may wonder exactly what the bad-something was, but it seems clear from the response that it fell into the category of hate speech, and the narrative will therefore map onto a variety of situations, including those where kids never do know exactly what was wrong. The first-person narration has an effective immediacy as the girls process the experience, and the changes in class behavior capably illustrate the way group dynamics can be affected for ill and also for good. Gouache, colored pencil, and ink illustrations have a soft, dappled quality punctuated by the sketchy yet totally individualized figures of the multicultural group of girls; mood is signaled by dominant hues, with red as the class turns to meanness and sunny yellow as the bathroom undergoes its transformation. It’s a vivid evocation of a believable event, which is helpfully coupled with an empowering response that gives kids an action to take. An author’s note describes being inspired by events that have happened at her children’s schools and offers resources for facilitating tolerance.