Thursday, December 01, 2016

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay
by Cari Best
illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

"In class 1-3, there are 22 chairs and 22 desks, 22 pencils, 22 hooks and 22 smocks. There are 22 people and 22 names - and one of them is mine. Zulay."

Right off the bat we love Zulay's spirit. As we read along, we start realizing that Zulay pays attention to minute details that many kids either take for granted or never register.

"... when the shoe-shuffling stops, we all line up for two-arm hugs..."

"Good morning, everyone,", says the teacher. Then her key clicks the lock for the class to begin

"I feel with my knees for where the chair fits and sit in my seat.."

The illustrations shows this bright and cheerful girl enjoying her school day with her three friends Maya, Nancy, and Chyng. Not until we read this little snippet do we start to take notice:

"Inside my desk there are crumpled papers, pencils and kisses, and a folded-up cane - a folded-up cane that I push to the back for later."

We also notice how diverse the classroom is with kids of different ethnicities, Zulay herself being African American.

When Mrs. Seeger announces to the class that after some common morning work the kids will go to the gym while Zulay goes with Mrs. Turner, it does not sit well with Zulay.

"I don't like when I hear my name sticking out there by itself. If no one else has to have Mrs. Turner, then why do I? But I don't say the way I feel. I might stick out even more, like a car alarm in the night waking everybody up."

We begin to understand Zulay's apprehension when we read that Mrs. Turner is there to help Zulay learn to use her cane. "That fold-ing hold-ing cold-ing cane" as Zulay puts it.

When class resumes with Ms. Seeger, Zulay learns of a big surprise coming up in three weeks: A Field Day! With contests, races and games outside. "Go home and think about which events you'd like to be in," says Mrs. Seeger.

Maya wants to play Capture the Flag, Nancy wants to try Tug-of-War, and Chyng thinks she can walk holding an egg on a spoon. While everyone has something they'd like to do, Zulay  thinks hard about what she would like to do on this big day and arrives at a decision.

"I would like to run the race in my new pink shoes, " I say - to a class as silent as stones.

From here on begins Zulay's determination to run that race - with the help of her cane. She must get over her dislike for it and work with Mrs. Turner to practise running, with their arms entwined.

On the big day, her friends all shout, "Run, Zulay, run!" and Zulay is ready to run the smooth round track that she knows like her own hands by now.

"So with the wind pushing me and the sun shining me, I feel like that bird that went flying."

[image source:]


Unknown said...

Makes you want to meet Zulay in real life ! Looking forward to sharing this book with the kids!

Artnavy said...

So positive and inspiring

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