Jenny Mei Is Sad

Little, Brown. Jun. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316537711.
PreS-Gr 2–Sometimes sadness is disguised with smiling, joking, and laughing. Sometimes sadness is not as easy to tuck away. The unnamed narrator is a young Black girl whose friend, Jenny Mei, a girl of the same age with short black hair and tan skin, carries a quiet sorrow. When the narrator meets her for their walk to school, Jenny Mei is clearly upset. The friend looks back at the house, signaling to readers that something at home makes Jenny Mei sad. Most days at school, Jenny Mei is lively, friendly, and funny. Some days, Jenny Mei does not feel like laughing and smiling. Subisak clearly delineates the ups and downs Jenny Mei experiences, and the support of both the narrator and the girls’ teacher, who is a good listener. The reason for Jenny Mei’s sadness is never explained, nor do readers get a tidy resolution. The simple text delivers the powerful message that sadness is normal and that friends can offer tremendous help in seemingly small ways. The ink-and-watercolor illustrations express the fluidity of the story’s emotional arc.
VERDICT A powerful story recommended to libraries for strengthening SEL skills in children.

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