My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

Overview

Zulay and her three best friends are all in the same first grade class and study the same things, even though Zulay is blind. When their teacher asks her students what activity they want to do on Field Day, Zulay surprises everyone when she says she wants to run a race. With the help of a special aide and the support of her friends, Zulay does just that.

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Overview

Zulay and her three best friends are all in the same first grade class and study the same things, even though Zulay is blind. When their teacher asks her students what activity they want to do on Field Day, Zulay surprises everyone when she says she wants to run a race. With the help of a special aide and the support of her friends, Zulay does just that.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Maria Russo
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay, is refreshing in its casual approach to racial diversity. Zulay is African-American…and her friends reflect an array of skin colors and ethnicities. Vanessa Brantley-Newton's wonderfully spirited illustrations find the subtler commonalities between them all, as they mirror one another in their expressions and body language. Best's rendering of the cheerful inclusiveness in Zulay's classroom toward a child with a disability is equally exciting, and not just for the sake of that child. Everyone in Zulay's class clearly benefits from having her there, helping and being helped by her, learning how she experiences the world, watching her overcome her own challenges in her own way.
Publishers Weekly
12/08/2014
A blind, African-American first grader named Zulay candidly shares her aspirations and frustrations in this frank, encouraging story. Best adeptly portrays Zulay as a rounded, complex character, not just a spokesperson—she’s good at math; loves to sing, dance, and be silly with her friends; and enjoys typing on her Brailler. Zulay is honest about feeling self-conscious (“I don’t like when I hear my name sticking out there by itself,” she says when she has to work with an aide, instead of joining her classmates for gym) and annoyed about learning to use the fold-up white cane, something she feels makes her stick out. Best’s prose and Brantley-Newton’s digital images exude warmth and empathy as they build to a triumphant conclusion that has Zulay working hard to prepare for a Field Day race. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"This picture book is a great way to continue building diverse library collections for all readers." - School Library Journal

 

“Best’s prose and Brantley-Newton’s digital images exude warmth and empathy as they build to a triumphant conclusion that has Zulay working hard to prepare for a Field Day race.” – Publishers Weekly

"Zulay's voice shines with rhythm and sensory detail, immersing readers naturally in her experience. Zulay's mention of learning to read braille, swim and climb trees despite difficulty will reassure blind kids whose hands are also "learn[ing] the way," and all kids will cheer as she and Ms. Turner fly around the track. A slightly raised braille alphabet on the back cover is a nice touch. Blind and sighted kids alike will enjoy this cheery outing, which appropriately treats learning to use a white cane with the straightforwardness another might treat learning to ride a bike."—Kirkus Reviews, starred

“Refreshing in its casual approach to racial diversity....Friends reflect an array of skin colors and ethnicities. Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s wonderfully spirited illustrations find the subtler commonalities between them all, as they mirror one another in their expressions and body language. Best’s rendering of the cheerful inclusiveness in Zulay’s classroom toward a child with a disability is equally exciting."—The New York Times  

The New York Times

Refreshing in its casual approach to racial diversity....Friends reflect an array of skin colors and ethnicities. Vanessa Brantley-Newton's wonderfully spirited illustrations find the subtler commonalities between them all, as they mirror one another in their expressions and body language. Best's rendering of the cheerful inclusiveness in Zulay's classroom toward a child with a disability is equally exciting.
Children's Literature - Suzanne Javid
In the first-grade classroom there are twenty-two chairs and twenty-two desks, twenty-two pencils and twenty-two books, hooks and smocks. There are twenty-two people and twenty-two names and one of them is Zulay. She and her three best friends help each other in math, reading and art; and they also love to sing and dance even though Zulay is blind. Based upon a real-life story, this beautiful, friendly picture book is inspiring and inclusive. When the teacher announces a School Field Day with outdoor contests, races, and games, Zulay, much to the surprise of her classmates, wants to run a race in her new pink shoes. With much practice and assistance from one special teacher, she crosses the finish line to the cheers of her friends. Forty pages of full-color, crisp and clear illustrations with six double-page spreads make this a great addition to a diverse library collection for all readers, Zulay, who is African-American, and her friends reflect an array of skin colors and ethnicities. Consistent text color and font is used throughout and a slightly raised Braille alphabet is found on the back outside cover. While primarily a story about perseverance, friendship, inclusion, blindness and people with disabilities, the story also gives insight to adults working with children. When her teacher tells the class they will go to gym while Zulay works with a special teacher, Zulay feels deflated. While remaining silent she thinks to herself: “I don’t like when I hear my name sticking out there by itself. If no one else has to have a special teacher, then why do I?” Run, Zulay, run! Reviewer: Suzanne Javid; Ages 4 to 8.
School Library Journal
11/01/2014
K-Gr 3—Best friends Maya, Nancy, Chyng, and Zulay laugh and sing and help one another with homework. When their first-grade teacher, Ms. Seeger, surprises them with an announcement about an upcoming field day, excitement fills the air. The 22 students each announces the events they want to compete in, and Zulay surprises everyone when she says she would like to run in the race. Zulay is blind and just learning to use her cane. She does not like to stick out among her peers but is determined to accomplish her goal. With the help of a teacher, Zulay works hard to overcome the odds and achieve success. This story is inspiring and inclusive. Zulay is portrayed as a happy, well-rounded first grader, and the author pays the perfect amount of attention to her special needs. Young readers will understand the challenges that Zulay faces in getting around but also that all students face unique challenges. Bright, colorful illustrations on a clean white backdrop are crisp and clear and mesh seamlessly with the text. This story is a great read-aloud for younger students due to the length of the text, but just right as independent reading for second and third graders. This picture book is a great way to continue building diverse library collections for all readers.—Amy Shepherd, St. Anne's Episcopal School, Middleton, DE
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-10-22
A glimpse at blindness, friendship and perseverance. Zulay's classroom has 22 desks, the children's name tags spelled in colorful braille dots. Three desks belong to her sighted friends, Chyng, Maya and Nancy, and they all help one another. Zulay's desk contains a "fold-ing hold-ing cold-ing" white cane, which she's reluctantly learning to use with the help of an aide, Ms. Turner. Zulay, an energetic African-American girl, is based on a real first-grader, and it shows. Like any kid, she doesn't want to stick out "like a car alarm in the night." She'd rather, she writes on her Brailler, "fly with [her] feet." She gets a chance to do just that at a field day, but can she master the cane in time? Brantley-Newton's bright colors and attention to facial expressions swiftly convey Zulay's enthusiasm, attitude and apprehension, as well as the skeptical and encouraging looks she can't see. Zulay's voice shines with rhythm and sensory detail, immersing readers naturally in her experience. Zulay's mention of learning to read braille, swim and climb trees despite difficulty will reassure blind kids whose hands are also "learn[ing] the way," and all kids will cheer as she and Ms. Turner fly around the track. A slightly raised braille alphabet on the back cover is a nice touch. Blind and sighted kids alike will enjoy this cheery outing, which appropriately treats learning to use a white cane with the straightforwardness another might treat learning to ride a bike. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374388195
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/13/2015
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 299,812
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Cari Best has written many award-winning picture books, including Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; Are You Going to Be Good?, a Parents' Choice Award Winner; and, most recently, Beatrice Spells Some Lulus and Learns to Write a Letter. Ms. Best lives in Weston, Connecticut.

Vanessa Brantley-Newton is the writer and/or illustrator of many picture books, including One Love, based on the Bob Marley song. Ms. Newton lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. oohlaladesignstudio.blogspot.com

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