Saturday, November 21, 2015

Liz and the Sand Castle Contest by Callie Barkley -- OPTIONAL

Barkley, Callie Liz and the Sand Castle Contest (Critter Club #11), illustrated by Marsha Riti. 117 pgs. Little Simon (Simon & Schuster), 2015. $5.99. Content: G.

Liz's family is off to the beach for a few days, and Liz can't wait to spend all her time building sand castles. When she discovers a sand castle contest starting up, she's thrilled to become a part of it. Unfortunately, Tommy, the boy in the contest plot next to hers, is not very kind. When Liz discovers a sick octopus down the beach, she has an excuse to get away from Tommy -- and to help an injured animal at the same time. But how can she possibly finish her sand castle now?

This is a cute premise, and the Critter Club books are often a lot of fun, but it was difficult to become too invested in this story. While it's important to teach kids to be kind to others and give others the benefit of the doubt, Liz is nice to a fault. In the face of such relentless bullying, her passive, doormat behavior quickly becomes frustrating. On the other side of the spectrum, Tommy is so mean as to be unbelievable, and his turnaround at the end is equally unbelievable considering what proceeds it. Also, all he had to do was be nice one time, and Liz and the contest director and everyone else praised him endlessly for his sportsmanship, whereas everyone ignored the fact that Liz was extremely tolerant and kind the entire time. If the genders had been reversed, would Tommy still be expected to passively accept continuous bullying, and would Liz have been worshiped for a single kind act? I'm not so sure.

EL (K-3) -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

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