I Don’t Care

Holiday House/Neal Porter. Nov. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823443451.
Gr 1-3–In silken soft graphite scenes with teal and yellow highlights, two children—each drawn by one of the two illustrators to be self representative—deliver a lesson in values that also happens to be as moving a declaration of close friendship as ever was. Like their expressions, which start out as scowls but change partway through to smiles and exchanged glances, the incantatory lines begin in forbidding tones (“i [sic] really don’t care what you think of my hair/ or my eyes or my toes or my nose”) but shift key for the important things: “i really do care/ that you always play fair…,” going on to “and i care if you smile/ and i care if you’re sad/ and i care if you’re worried/ and i care if you’re mad,” on the way to “and i care that we’re always/ and i care that we’re two/ and i care that we’re friends/ and i care that we’re true.” The lighter haired of the twosome is ambiguously gendered, and along with being easy on the eyes and written in language and cadences that particularly lend themselves to choral reading, this warm, wise, lyrical expression of togetherness is refreshingly clear of the sentimentality that goops up such similarly themed titles as Carmela Coyle’s Do Princesses Have Best Friends Forever? or Monica Sheehan’s Love Is You & Me.
VERDICT A psychologically acute tally of friendship’s most solid foundations, worth sharing with audiences large or small and tailor-made for reading aloud.

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