The Picture Book Buzz

Invisible Jerry - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

August 9, 2019

It's so easy, even for the most outgoing person, to occasionally feel invisible. Like no one sees them. Tough enough when you're an adult, excruciating when you're a child. With no freedom or ability to change your circumstances. It can be as simple as never having the ball passed to you in a game or being the odd kid out who no one ever talks too.

 

When Giuseppe showed me his book in Australia, I immediately fell in love with it. His cover illustration with Jerry watching everyone else playing with a ball, from the other side of the title, grabs the reader and immediately tugs at their emotions.  

 

 

 

 

 

Invisible Jerry

 

Author: Adam Wallace

 

Illustrator: Giuseppe Poli

 

Publisher: EK Books (2018)

 

Ages: 4-7

 

Fiction

Themes:

Friendship, self-esteem, belonging, and paying it forward.

 

Synopsis:

People don't notice Jerry. If someone bumps into him, they don't say sorry. If someone waves, it's to somebody behind him. He never gets picked last for sports teams, but that's because he never gets picked at all. It's like he's invisible. That is, until Molly comes along. Molly asks Jerry his opinion. She shares things with him, she laughs with him and she sees him. Jerry soon realizes he can pay her gift forward, as there are plenty of other kids who feel invisible too.

 

In today's busy world, there are lots of people who feel like they're on the outside looking in. This picture book is written for them, to show them that there are people out there who will see them, who will recognize their talents, and see how worthy they are. Bestselling author Adam Wallace (How to Catch an Elf) was inspired to write Invisible Jerry based on his own experiences as a shy kid growing up. This story comes straight from the heart.

 

Opening Lines:

People didn't notice Jerry.

If they waved, it was always to someone behind him.

No one ever said sorry when they bumped into him,

even if it was totally their fault.

 

Why I LOVE this book:

Taking Adam's touching text, Giuseppe begins the story of Jerry, a shy boy who "doesn't want to stand out," from the cover; where he'sseparated from the others by the "fence" of the title. Then, he further highlights Jerry's isolation in the first two spreads from the dedication page and the first page:

Text © Adam Wallace, 2018. Image © Giuseppe Poli, 2018.

 

I can just hear the kids, at readings, hollering "there he is," and "I see him." Just as they do when Mac Barnett reads Leo: A Ghost Story aloud.

 

In very concise text, Adam conveys Jerry's isolation in terms any kid will immediately understand. No one ever waves at him, acknowledges they bumped into him, laughs at his jokes, or even picks him last for teams. The next line, and Giuseppe's illustration, put an emotional exclamation point on Jerry's isolation; one that grabs the reader's heart -

". . . because he never got picked at all." 

Text © Adam Wallace, 2018. Image © Giuseppe Poli, 2018.

 

Notice Jerry on the left in near complete darkness. But before you despair, Molly arrives. She notices Jerry and makes him "feel visible . . . like a real person." This could have been the ending and made this a sweet book on friendship, but Adam expands Jerry's world. He realizes that "not everyone could have a Molly. But maybe someone could have a Jerry!"

 

Then, in parallel text, we learn why Paul feels invisible . . . "Until Jerry came along." Sorry, no more images or hints at the ending - you'll need to get the book. Or, perhaps, read Adam & Giuseppe's interviews from earlier this week. But be sure not to miss the change in the end pages and on the back cover. 

     

I loved that Giuseppe's goal in illustrating this book was: "to help [kids] recognise that invisibility isn’t just a concept or just an empathetic way we feel towards a character in a book. It can happen in the world around us." Adam and Giuseppe definitely fulfill this goal. Invisible Jerry functions both as a mirror for the invisible child; seeing them and encouraging them to "hang in there." And as a window - and a call to action - for everyone else. Asking us all to look around us and be "Molly's" - reaching out to others.

 

What a great book to read aloud at the start of every school year and a perfect book for every library. It's also a great mentor text for leaving room for the illustrator and the magic that occurs when the text and the illustrations see each other.   

 

Resources:

- read Be A Friend by Salina Yoon and Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett. How  are they similar and different from Invisible Jerry?

- write a story or draw a picture of a time you felt left out or "invisible";

- try to be a "Molly" or "Jerry" to someone at school, on a sports team, or on the playground;

- can you tell what happens next in this story? 

 

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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