Dianna Hutts Aston; Illustrated by Frank W. Dormer
Kylie Bell is the smallest student in first grade. Does this fact bother her? Not a bit. She looks at that particular measurement in her own unique way, choosing to describe herself as the "not-so-tallest" person in first grade.
It's no surprise that Kylie is itty bitty, as her entire family is vertically challenged. Their small stature is why their family motto has become "Brave and smart and big at heart." The Bells know that you don't have to claim a lot of inches to claim your place this world.
It is important that Kylie has such a positive attitude about herself because she sure is having a tough time at school with the new boy, Rusty Jacks. He teases her and taunts her all over the school, generally being a thorn in her side. Kylie needs to summon all her courage to face this big bully.
In the end, it is Rusty Jacks who finds himself needing a friend. When Ms. Shelts asks all the circle leaders who can find a spot in their reading group, not a single person will meet her eye. Rusty stands alone, unwelcome and embarrassed. It is Kylie who take two deep breaths, sets aside her scared feelings, and welcomes Rusty to her group. After giving him a chance, Kylie discovers that under his tough exterior, Rusty Jacks is actually a bit of a softie.
I think one of the cutest details of this book is the way it is written "western"style. The author uses phrases like "skedaddles faster than a spooked horse" and "skitter-dee-doos" while the reading groups boast names like Bison and Shetland Ponies. From the ten-gallon hats and kerchiefs right down to the cowboy boots, you can tell Texas has been written right into this story.
Not just fun illustrations and western twang, this book teaches a valuable lesson. Physical appearance, whether is height or weight, skin or eye color, is not the true measure of a person. Each person's character is defined by their personality, intelligence and heart. The size of Kylie's heart far outstretches her diminutive form and she overcomes her fear to befriend Rusty Jacks.