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In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best

On 20, May 2015 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

ZulayMy Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay written by Cari Best, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

From GoodReads: 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.

This would make an excellent book for the classroom or library to be read aloud. The title is a bit misleading since the story doesn’t really focus around her friends or their frienship. It’s really a story about practice makes perfect. Zulay really wants to run in the foot race on Field Day, but she’s blind and not familiar with the track. She’s been working with Miss XX on how to move around on her own using a cane, but running in a foot race poses a new challenge. With the help of her aide and a lot of practice (and she isn’t the only student to practice, many of her sighted classmates practice too) she is able to complete the race with her friends cheering her on.

Some pieces of the story, although good, felt disjointed. She talks about her friends and how they help each other but beyond cheering for one another on Field Day and linking arms to help Zulay move around the playground you don’t see much beyond that. I would have liked more of their friendship. There were the lessons with Miss XX on how to use a cane for feeling her way on the street and around unfamiliar places. Zulay is frustrated by them and feels a little embarrassed that she is the only one using a cane. But she doesn’t end up using the cane in her foot race (understandably) or at any other time in the story. I guess my point is, I liked Zulay enough that I want to see more of her and learn more about her.

The illustrations are darling. I love Brantley-Newton’s style. Zulay and her friends in their uniforms are adorable. And Zulay is reminicent of the adorable kids in the One Love, also illustrated by Brantley-Newton.

This is definitely worth having in the library collection because the story has a great message and it features Zulay who is blind. I also think it would make an excellent addition to classroom and home collections where there could be discussion and read alouds of it. The text is a little long which make it better suited to the upper picture book age range, say second grade, but my nearly-four-year-old sat through it. The back cover features the Braille alphabet which opened an excellent discussion with my daughter and I could see this being repeated in classrooms and homes.

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