Justina Chen Headley's The Patch
Book review by Sherri Trudgian
Becca’s Biggest Fear – Looking Stupid!
I was initially attracted to The Patch by its cover. The ponytailed, skinny legged girl wearing a pink tutu, matching eye patch and purple glasses intrigued me.
Becca is a bright, creative energetic five year old who loves to dance. She knows her shapes, can spell her name and count to seventy-seven. However, before starting school Becca must have a physical exam. She bravely endures the compulsory shots but is dismayed to discover fuzzy letters on the eye chart.
“You get to wear glasses and an eye patch.” The doctor says encouragingly.
(The treatment of amblyopia requires the wearing of a patch on the strong eye in order to strengthen the weak eye.)
With feet firmly planted and arms crossed, a defiant Becca states, “Ballerinas don’t wear glasses … And they especially do NOT wear patches!”
Although there is a large selection of styles to choose from, Becca repeatedly turns up her nose shaking her head NO! Mother smiles tentatively when Becca finally settles on a pair of purple glasses and a pink patch which she deems appropriate for a prima ballerina.
Next morning, hiding under the covers, Becca refuses to go to school. “Everyone is going to think I’m stupid.” Her brother’s solution is to offer Becca his pirate costume. Becca’s imagination immediately sets to work as she digs out the odious patch from underneath Figaro’s dog bed.
At school her friend Sophia asks the obvious question. “Cute glasses, but why are you wearing a patch?”
Becca responds, “I am Becca the Ballerina Pirate, who dances across the Seven Seas.” She invites her friends to join her in the dance. Her mates enthusiastically jeté and plié around the room in search of secret treasure.
When Sophia asks her a second time, “Why are you wearing a patch?” Becca responds, “Because I am Becca the Private Eye, who can find anything.” She then proceeds to turn the classroom upside down in search of Sophia’s missing sweater. The children are all very impressed with her skills.
At recess Sophia again asks the dreaded question. This time Becca becomes the One-Eyed monster chasing her friends around the school yard. By the end of the day all the children in the class want an eye patch just like Becca. With their acceptance Becca finally faces her fears and admits that she has a lazy eye.
I love Becca. She may have a lazy eye but nothing about Becca is lazy!
Mitch Vane has done a wonderful job illustrating The Patch. The colors are vivid and there are lots of details. In his drawings Becca’s personality comes to life. You can tell that she is a high achiever by her tongue. She is so intense that it pops out each time she draws those perfect triangles, and heart-shaped tulips. The strap of Becca’s tutu sits slightly off her right shoulder emphasizing her defiant refusal of the many colored frames in the optometrist’s office.
Mitch Vane has even given Becca’s dog Figaro a fun personality with a matching black patch and ears that mirror Becca’s ponytails. He also likes to dance and can be seen pirouetting along with Becca.
Although the ending seems slightly contrived, I would recommend The Patch for both preschoolers and early elementary children. Justina Chen Headly has developed quite the character. I love Becca. Let’s face it no one wants to look stupid. We all try to disguise our inadequacies but in the end our friends are our friends. They accept us just the way we are.
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