Committee for Children Blog

Book Review: The Invisible Boy

by Trudy Ludwig

Reading Level: Grades 1–3

Even though his classmates don’t actively tease him, Brian is not having a good time at school. No one ever seems to notice him. In fact, after witnessing his peers mocking a new boy, he wonders which is worse: “being laughed at or feeling invisible.” He is inspired to reach out to the new boy, and discovers that he may not be invisible after all.

In her perfect nutshell of a book, author Trudy Ludwig captures the demoralizing experience of social exclusion. Brian clearly has much to offer any potential friend, but with noisy, needy kids like Nathan and Sophie around, taking up “a lot of space,” he doesn’t have a chance to show his true colors. Talented illustrator Patrice Barton’s whimsical pencil and digitally painted drawings depict Brian’s transformation from black-and-white “invisible” to full-color, fully-seen boy. Savvy readers will notice the slow spread of color on Brian’s face and body as he begins to connect with Justin and Emilio. The story is followed by discussion questions and a list of recommended books for children and adults.

Classroom Activity

Like the illustrator of this story, Brian uses his artwork to reveal what’s going on under the surface (as in his drawing of superheroes with the power to make friends wherever they go). Ask readers to draw portraits of themselves showing how they feel in various settings: recess, the classroom, bedtime, during summer vacation, at parties, and so forth. Do their self-portraits always look the same? Do they feel invisible in any of these settings? Do they feel like a burst of color in others?

Q&A with the Trudy Ludwig

Why did you write about “invisible” kids?

Social exclusion is something that we've all experienced at some point in our lives. Who hasn't ever felt invisible at school, in the workplace, or at some social gathering or sports activity? Quiet, introverted children are particularly vulnerable to this feeling. Kids and adults are social beings. We all have a basic need to feel connected with others and have some sense of belonging. I wrote The Invisible Boy to help young readers know that it doesn't take super-human efforts to reach out to others to make them feel visible, acknowledged, and accepted. I wanted to show the power of one person to be able to reach out in a kind way to make a positive difference in someone else's life.

Did you hear from some “invisible” readers?

Yes! I've heard equally from children and adults. They share with me how much they relate to Brian, the protagonist in the story. I've been having some fascinating conversations with readers over the question Brian posed to himself after seeing kids make fun of the new kid at school: “He sits there wondering which is worse—being laughed at or feeling invisible.” 

“Were you ever invisible?” 

Absolutely—as a child and as an adult. It's a fact of life that we're not all going to be included in everything. We're not all going to be popular. We're not going to be friends with everyone. But we each do have the power to acknowledge the presence of those we encounter in life and treat them in a civil and respectful manner.