Committee for Children Blog

Book Review: The Brand New Kid

by Katie Couric
Reading level: Preschool–Grade 2

Second-grader Lazlo S. Gasky seems different from the other kids at Brookhaven School. His white-blond hair sticks up all over, his vivid blue eyes and super-pink lips stand out against his pale complexion, his accent sounds “strange” to the other students, and he is brand new to his class (perhaps one of the most “different” traits possible in second grade).

Author Katie Couric’s lively rhyme portrays young Lazlo’s journey from the pain of peer rejection to the joy of new friendship and acceptance. Illustrator Marjorie Priceman’s lovely watercolor images add crucial depth to Couric’s story, which gives voice to the important messages of tolerance, respect, and kindness. The expert illustrations bring the tale to life and virtually guarantee that kids will understand (and be interested in) Lazlo’s situation, including the emotions of the main characters and others depicted on the sidelines.

In her introduction to The Brand New Kid, Katie Couric says, “I hope that The Brand New Kid can be used as a springboard to talk about basic human kindness and compassion in our daily lives…I hope this story will inspire all of us to reach out and make someone feel a little less scared and a little less lonely.”

The book can be used as a starting point for discussions about kindness, respect, and tolerance with kindergarten through second-grade students. But students of all ages can learn from the book’s message, so feel free to use this activity with the upper grades too.

Classroom Discussion

Imagine Lazlo

Reread pages 11–15 to students. Before you begin, say, “As you listen, close your eyes and imagine that you are Lazlo.” Afterward, invite volunteer “Lazlos” to describe how they felt during the reading.

Talk About Feelings

Show students the illustrations on pages 19 and 20 of the book. Have students describe what is happening in each picture. Ask the following questions:

  • How do you think Lazlo feels in the first picture? (Sad, lonely.)
  • What clues do you see in his body and on his face? (His sad face, his head is hanging.)
  • How do you think Lazlo feels in the second picture? (Happy, surprised.)
  • What clues do you see in his body and on his face? (He is smiling, his eyes are wide open.)

Follow up by asking, “What could you do if you noticed that a new student at our school looked like Lazlo does in the first picture?”

Define Respect

Present the following Steps to Respect definition of respect to students: “Respect means treating people the way you want to be treated. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.” Invite students to brainstorm a list of specific behaviors that demonstrate respect.

Encourage students to pick a respectful behavior to use throughout the week.

Lisa L. Owens
Freelance Writer