Welcome to the Island

Little Simon. (Isla of Adventure: Bk. 1). Dec. 2022. 128p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781665926546.
Gr 2-5–Isla Verde has a secret: she can talk to the animals of Sol, the island where she lives. Isla is an adventurous Black girl, eager to explore with her bestie Fitz the gecko and her other animal friends. When a family moves in next door, she meets Tora Rosa, a light-skinned girl from the big city (La Ciudad) who seems different from her in every way. She’s tidy where Isla is covered in dirt from her explorations; adores pink where Isla’s last name clearly cues green; and finds reptiles and amphibians scream-worthy, while Isla considers them her closest chums. Yet Isla wants to make a human friend all the same! But she’s out of practice and grows self-conscious as she stumbles through getting to know Tora while concealing her ability. Then Tora’s cherished La Ciudad pin is snatched by a seagull, and the girls bond on their mission to retrieve it. Isla confides in Tora, who is thrilled by the girl’s secret, and the book ends on a promising note of a blossoming odd-couple friendship. Charming monochrome art occupies half of almost every page and brings Isla and her beautiful home to life. Onomatopoeia absorbs readers in delightful minutiae like Isla’s meditative sketching and her jaunt to the local market, while plentiful use of italics will teach them about emphasis (especially if read aloud). With 10 chapters and advanced terminology, this title would be best for older chapter book readers into younger middle grade, or as a read aloud.
VERDICT A series debut bustling with welcoming energy, appropriately challenging language, and lessons about friendship. Children will eagerly anticipate more visits to Sol.

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