Oddrey is a young girl with a free spirit. With her quirky behavior, she is accustomed to standing out from the crowd, but she's also a natural leader. She thinks up interesting games, and encourages her friends to participate. When a new girl, Maybelline, joins Oddrey's class, Oddrey expects them to be friends. What she doesn't expect is that Maybelline's over-the-top stories of exciting adventures will draw their classmates' interest, and make Maybelline the new class leader. Only when Maybelline gets herself into a bit of trouble on a visit to the zoo do the two girls learn to fully coexist.
Oddrey is a likable heroine. I like the way Whamond shows that even though Oddrey does have a certain flair for drawing attention, she also goes out of her way to give her attention to others. There's a marvelous page spread (pre-Maybelline) in which the kids are all building a huge sand castle, and we see Oddrey popping about, telling people: "Good job!", "Love those colors!", etc. This is in sharp contrast to Maybelline, who leads a leaf-jumping game by bossing the other kids around. The author refrains from editorializing about this (he shows without telling), but it's easy enough as a parent reading to a child to ask which approach seems better (leading by encouragement or leading by bossiness).
I also like the ending of this book. Oddrey ends up helping Maybelline, and the two girls do become friends, but Maybelline remains fully in character, bragging about her own performance to the last. Instead of showing an unrealistic character change for Maybelline, we instead see Oddrey learn to accept the new girl for who she is, and interact with her on those terms. Again, there's a message there that the parent can point out to young readers, but it's not heavy-handed.
Whamond's bright, cartoon-like illustrations are delightful. He tends toward busy images, with lots of things going on, and lets the pictures, together with fairly minimal text, tell the story. Oddrey and Maybelline's personalities both come across through their expressions and posture. My favorite is an image where Oddrey is standing, hands on hips, mouth a thin line, as Maybelline, proud expression on her face, declares her intention to rescue a monkey. These images are probably too hectic for the youngest of readers, but they are sure to appeal to pre-K and up. My four-year-old daughter adores Oddrey and the New Kid. She has been regularly digging it out of my "to be reviewed" stack for ages.
When my daughter learned that there was a new Oddrey book, about Oddrey playing soccer, no less, she literally jumped up and down for joy. In Oddrey Joins the Team, Maybelline invites Oddrey to join the school soccer team. The core traits of each of the two friends are immediately on display. Oddrey has an "interesting technique", pirouetting atop the soccer ball, and bouncing it off of her backside. Maybelline is a strong player, but hogs all the glory for herself, never passing the ball. This combination leads the team to struggle in their first game, until Oddrey steps in with a game plan. Oddrey's plan acknowledges Maybelline's position as "queen bee", but also takes into account the unique skills of the other teammates (including Oddrey herself, of course).
I especially appreciated the fact that Oddrey's team "didn't win that day. But they did have fun playing together." I feel like in sports books for kids there's often this requirement that the home team pulls out from behind to win, and that completely wasn't need here.
Once again, Whamond offers amusing, vignette-filled illustrations. I especially liked one that uses a dashed line to show the path of the soccer ball as it is passed from kid to kid, with Maybelline issuing orders every step of the way. And I continue to love Maybelline's deadpan expressions in response.
The Oddrey books are fun to read, with engaging illustrations, and a strong protagonist. They do offer some subtle lessons about social dynamics among kids, but they do this by showing, not telling, and keeping things light. I expect my daughter to continue requesting these two books on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. While the subject matter in these books would work well for classroom read-aloud, I fear that the illustrations may be a bit detailed for group reads. But for home use, for four and five-year-olds new to being in school, the Oddrey books are a treat.
Publisher: Owlkids Books (@Owlkids)
Publication Date: September 10, 2013, August 12, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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