Review Blog

May 13 2011

Marshall Armstrong is new to our school by David Mackintosh

cover image

HarperCollins, 2011. ISBN 9780007361410.
Picture book. Highly recommended. When new boy, Marshall Armstrong comes to the classroom, the teacher sits him in the front with a class member until he finds his feet. But Marshall is different. The classmate is suspicious of his equipment laid out on the desk. Marshall's box of pens, his ink pen, rubber bands, several rulers, slide rule, compass and bull dog clip, contrast wildly with his neighbour's single small pencil and folder of paper. The next page underlines the differences even more. The classmate points out his eyes that always look to the front, the shell like ear, freckles like bird seed and his tidy shoelaces, all adding up, in his mind, to a huge difference between the children in the class. These differences are further underscored when the children go outside the classroom. Here Marshall does not involve himself in games, and eats the oddest of food, each in its own labelled container. The neighbour concludes that Marshall does not fit into their school.
When the class is invited along to Marshall's place to celebrate his birthday, the classmate predicts that everyone will have a horrible time. But the party is different with all the class having the wildest of times, playing hide and seek, making lemonade, playing with the train set and opening a pinata. As a consequence the class mate changes his mind about Marshall, saying how great he is. The next new person to come to the class is welcomed.
A lovely story about fitting in, about welcoming people and about acceptance of difference is beautifully told and illustrated in David Mackintosh's distinctive style. His seemingly quick pencil sketches are filled in with colour and vitality, while each double page spread gives the reader a different view of what is going on. I love the double page of Marshall's things, the collection of bits and pieces redolent of times past, fitting in so well with the drawing of Marshall himself, with straw hat and round glasses.
Fran Knight

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