Plus One

Holiday House/Margaret Ferguson. Jan. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823450435.
K-Gr 3–Agnes has just moved to town and seeks friends, but in a reversal of the typical “new kid” trope, she becomes the one to issue rejection when the wrong kind of friend shows up to her fancy tea party. She has invited a group of girls and their “plus ones” (their favorite stuffed animals), but one of the invitations is intercepted by the boy next door, Dave. Though he is full of exuberant energy, Agnes turns him away, claiming he lacks the right kind of “plus one.” Undaunted, he attempts to introduce a variety of exciting prospects, including a Canada goose, a legless lizard, adorable puppies, and his very own mom—but Agnes repeatedly rejects him. Though Agnes is the story’s protagonist, sensitive readers are more likely to root for Dave, who comes across as lonely but kind, creative, and extraordinarily forgiving. Agnes eventually realizes her other invitees haven’t shown up and decides to give Dave a chance. Bright, lively illustrations in digitally finished acrylic paint suit the gently humorous tone of the story, and Dave’s increasingly zany overtures are sure to elicit giggles from young readers. Characters are depicted with a variety of skin tones and a diverse community.
VERDICT Treading a fine line between slightly heartbreaking and sweetly funny, this story is sure to spark discussions about kindness and inclusion. A solid purchase for picture book collections, and a strong choice for story hours about friendship and empathy.

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