BOOKS: Boy's life becomes more colorful as he makes friends

By Jean Patrick Republic Book Columnist Maybe you've seen someone like Brian. Or maybe, you've look right past him. "The Invisible Boy," by Trudy Ludwig, is the story of a quiet, pale boy who doesn't take up much space. At school, he's not loud l...

“The Invisible Boy” is about a boy named Brian, who doesn’t take up much space.

By Jean Patrick Republic Book Columnist

Maybe you’ve seen someone like Brian. Or maybe, you’ve look right past him.

“The Invisible Boy,” by Trudy Ludwig, is the story of a quiet, pale boy who doesn’t take up much space.

At school, he’s not loud like Nathan or whiny like Sophie. At recess, he’s not picked for a team. At lunch when everyone talks about Madison’s birthday party (that he wasn’t invited to), he feels completely invisible.

But things begin when Justin joins the class. After everybody makes fun of the food that Justin eats for lunch, Brian writes him a kind note with a funny picture. A friendship is born.


Here’s where “The Invisible Boy” doesn’t follow the expected pattern. At this point, it would seem that Brian’s life would change for the better.

But when it’s time for the class to choose partners for a special project, Emilio grabs Justin, leaving Brian alone again.

In most stories, the main character would have to dig deep to solve his own problem. But in “The Invisible Boy” Justin becomes the hero, reaching out to Brian in multiple ways.

The story ends happily, but the book occasionally feels heavy on instructional value. In fact the last page is packed with discussion questions for parents, teachers and counselors to use with kids.

However, illustrator Patrice Barton chooses to use a quiet technique to show Brian’s worth. When Brian feels invisible, she portrays him in grey.

As the class includes him, she gradually adds color to his shirt, pants, skin and hair.

Barton also uses color to reveal Brian’s interior life. At “Choosing Time,” Brian draws superhero scenes that burst with reds and greens. In the final scene, one of his fantasies subtly comes true.

Author Trudy Ludwig is an active member of the International Bullying Prevention Association. Patrice Barton is the illustrator of several books, including “Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine” and “I Like Old Clothes.”


“The Invisible Boy.” By Trudy Ludwig. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. Knopf, 2013. 40 pp.


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