The Invisible Boy

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Invisible Boy Book Poster Image
Kind tale of empathy shows how to reach out to left-out kid.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Invisible Boy provides a strategy for overcoming cliques and reaching out to children on the fringes of social settings. Adults and kids can keep the conversation going with discussion questions in the back of the book and other suggested books.

Positive Messages
A good friend can help smooth your way through all sorts of difficult circumstances. With Justin looking out for him, Brian starts to feel more connected to his classmates. Kindness often begets kindness; by reaching out to the new student, Brian sows the seeds of friendship. Brian takes a chance, and it changes his life for the better.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Brian is compassionate. He understands Justin's feelings are hurt and tries to help him feel better. Justin is similarly thoughtful and considerate, reaching out to Brian and helping to build a bridge for Brian to become more involved.
Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Invisible Boy is an excellent choice for sparking open-ended conversations with children about friendship and empathy. It shows small but important ways to be a good friend and challenge the power of a group. It's equally helpful for teaching kids how to be an upstander and for kids who feel excluded by their peers. Its gentle message is conveyed clearly without being overbearing.

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What's the story?

Brian feels invisible. He's ignored by his classmates and even overlooked by his teacher. When a new student named Justin arrives, some of the kids poke fun at his lunch. Brian, who loves to draw when he's alone, leaves a picture in Justin's backpack with a note: "I thought the bulgogi looked good." Later, when it's time to pick partners in class, Brian again is shunted aside. Emilio chooses Justin, but then Justin suggests adding Brian to form a three-person team. At lunch, Justin calls Brian to join him at a table, with a welcoming nod from Emilio. Sharing cookies with Justin, Brian feels like he might not be invisible after all.

Is it any good?

With THE INVISIBLE BOY, author Trudy Ludwig taps into the everyday insecurities and agonies of elementary school without making anyone a villain. Patrice Barton's illustrations show similar empathy: Her depiction of a room of children sizing up the new kid is painfully on-target. She cleverly introduces Brian, the invisible boy, in shades of white and gray. As Justin starts to draw him into his social circle, the first blush of color tints his cheeks. By the story's end, Brian shares the same soft hues as his classmates. 
Ludwig's message is neither strident nor cloying. Brian gets Justin's attention only by reaching out to him, and Justin helps open doors for Brian through small, thoughtful gestures. The discussion questions at the book's end are a terrific guide for parents and teachers, and the author's website has links to more resources.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how it takes someone else outside the group to pull Brian in. Why do people sometimes act callously when they're part of a group?
  • Have you ever felt excluded?
  • How could you help someone who might feel invisible?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and empathy stories

Themes & Topics

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