Booklist starred (August 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 22))
Grades K-3. Starting with the title, this quiet, intense picture book is about the small actions that can haunt. As in collaborations such as Coming on Home Soon (2004), Woodson’s spare, eloquent free verse and Lewis’ beautiful, spacious watercolor paintings tell a story for young kids that will touch all ages. In a first-person voice, Chloe speaks about how a new girl in class, Maya, gets the empty seat next to her and tries to be friends. But Chloe and her clique will have none of the poor white kid in her old ragged clothes, and their meanness intensifies after Maya asks to play with them. Then Maya’s family moves away, and she is “forever gone,” leaving Chloe without the chance to put things right. Chloe’s teacher spells out lessons of kindness, but the story is most powerful in the scenes of malicious bullying in the multiracial classroom and in the school yard. It is rare to tell a story of cruelty from the bully’s viewpoint, and both the words and pictures powerfully evoke Chloe’s shame and sorrow over the kindness she has not shown, as she looks at the empty seat next to her in the classroom, and then, alone and troubled, throws a stone in the water and watches the ripples move out and away. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The combined talents and star power of Woodson and Lewis will undoubtably create plenty of pre-pub. buzz.