A is for Elizabeth
by Rachel Vail, published 2019
“Even if there is no trophy involved, I love winning. I am not a sore winner, no matter what Anna the Annoying says. I am the opposite of sore. I am a feel-great winner.”
This is such a cheerful, fast-moving, and positive children’s book that I am surprised I haven’t come upon the author earlier. It has a handful of illustrations but it is mostly a first-chapter book with far more content than your typical children’s book might have for an early reader. It is fun, honest, and has a great conclusion. Along with its story, we do get to have some simple examples, though perhaps somewhat misguided, of speaking up for what you believe. I say misguided because it is not clear that the heroine, Elizabeth, thought through her ‘protest’ but more happened upon it. But isn’t that how things happen with children anyway? I think this children’s book illustrates the muddy, nonconceptual thinking that many second grade children live with. They don’t necessarily reason things out, but they do know something is awry.
I found the character complex, despite this being a very simple children’s book. She was stubborn, somewhat jealous, over-ambitious, and yet, she is so humanly normal as a second grader, that I think parents could benefit from reading this book as well. Time to stop thinking that your second grader should be an angel, or rational, or even head of the class. They are just a bundle of growing energies that we want to love and protect. This children’s book offers a sweet, simple, and honest little episode that could also be called, “first week at second grade.” And for young readers, it offers a chance to learn something new: alphabetic order!