Committee for Children Blog

Book Review: Betty Lou Blue

by Nancy Crocker; Illustrated by Boris Kulikov
Reading level: Preschool–Grade 2

Little Betty Lou Blue longs to be included by the other kids. But in the playground pecking order, a girl with giant feet usually does not come out on top. And Betty Lou's feet are rather big. If her shoes were boats, according to her would-be friends, she “could float for a year!” Poor Betty Lou Blue tries to ignore the teasing. She listens to her mother's comforting words about how special she is and how “each living thing has a reason to be,” but deep down she doesn't believe it.

The moment of truth comes one winter day when all the children—except our big-footed heroine—become stranded in a snowdrift. Betty Lou stands over her scared schoolmates and contemplates her options:

“Name-callers, bullies,
that boy Jimmy Jack—
Now here was her chance to pay them all back.
And all it would take
was her walking away—
Though Betty Lou knew what her mama would say.

Dear, everything's ugly
that's done out of spite;
But you can be beautiful doing what's right.
'Cause what makes you special
what sets you apart,
Is not on the outside—it's there in your heart.”

Using those oft-ridiculed feet as snowshoes, Betty Lou walks across the top of the snow to rescue the kids. Her choice to do “what's right” marks a turning point for Betty Lou, as the children cling to her in gratitude and beg to be her best friend.

Social and Emotional Lessons in Betty Lou Blue

Although this story is more like a fantasy for a teased child than a useful treatise on dealing with bullying, it does offer basic wisdom about knowing oneself and rising above cruel behavior—both others’ and one's own. Astute teachers will focus on the artwork in the book: “Look at Betty Lou's face. How do you think she's feeling right now?”

They might also encourage readers to think about Betty Lou’s mom's advice in handling the bullying: “Was it useful? What else might she have done to help?” Finally, classroom discussion could be directed toward assertiveness skills. “Betty Lou seems shy. What might she have done to build up her self-confidence?”

Emilie Coulter
Book Reviewer
Committee for Children