I Don’t Care by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, 2022. 9780823443451
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Format: Hardcover picture book
What did you like about the book? A delightful celebration of best-friendship with a twist, I Don’t Care is a collaboration by three beloved book creators. Julie Fogliano shares a sweet rhyming conversation between two little girls who at first seem angry with each other. They tell each other they don’t care what the other thinks of their clothes and hair, of their singing and drawing, even their families and cultures (“I don’t care if you think that my lunches smell weird or if you don’t like my dad’s giant black beard”). But soon this bickering turns into a barrage of compliments as the girls reveal that they are actually inseparable besties who like each other no matter what, and what they do care about is how much fun they have together and how kind and caring they are to each other.
The lilting text begs to be read aloud, and the message of inclusivity and acceptance can’t be shared enough. What makes I Don’t Care stand out from the many books on the same topic is the charming illustrations contributed by real-life best friends Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal. The two girls are drawn with graphite and each has an aura of a color – Idle’s light-haired girl is surrounded by blue, while Martinez-Neal’s dark-haired girl has yellow. When first seen, they are standing on opposite sides of a tree, arms crossed and scowls on their faces. Most of the activity in the book takes place around that tree; it provides the only real background as the girls picnic and play. The colors overlap more and more as the book progresses, although, notably they never truly turn green, perhaps a sign that each girl retains her own personality while thoroughly immersing herself in the friendship. In enlightening notes, the two artists share how the project came about and how they were able to work together, combining their unique art styles, choosing signature colors, and even deciding on what paper to use!
Anything you did not like about the book? I read it out loud to a 1st grade class and several of them did not like how mean the girls seemed to each other at the beginning; it made it hard for them to accept that they were actually best friends. They definitely appreciated and understood that they worked out their differences though.
To whom would you recommend this book? Lower elementary students and their grownups who have enjoyed other books by the author or the illustrators or Philip and Erin Stead. It certainly would be an appropriate choice for SEL collections and might be useful in opening discussions about conflict resolution.
Who should buy this book? Preschools, public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: January 12, 2023
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