I am glad to have been led to this book through fellow Monday reading enthusiasts. The first time I heard of this book, I knew it would be perfect for our current theme.
There is a Brian in every class. For the most part, they are conveniently forgotten by most teachers, an afterthought. Greater attention is given to the loud, difficult-to-manage ones like Nathan who has a problem with “volume control” or who frequently finds something to complain about like Sophie.
The Brians, on the other hand, fade into the background, largely ignored, because the teacher is way too busy admonishing the naughty ones or helping the others catch up with the lessons.
As the reader flips the pages of this gorgeously-illustrated book, one cannot help but feel for Brian who is evidently unhappy, unable to fit in with his peers, not really belonging anywhere. Except when he is doing his artwork quietly on his desk, lost in his own world:
Then a new student joined the class, a Korean boy named Justin who eats with chopsticks and has bulgogi for lunch. As the other kids make fun of Brian and his odd ways, Brian begins to wonder “which is worse – being laughed at or feeling invisible.”
While deceptively-simple, the book shows self-agency in the part of Brian, as well as resilience and sensitivity brought about more by his distinctive character rather than any kind of intervention or help by the teachers. At the end of the book, there are a few questions for discussion which teachers can make use of in the classroom with students. There is also a list of recommended reading for both adults and kids regarding invisible kids in the classroom.
As an educator, I find that this book is a perfect reminder to frenzied teachers everywhere about the importance of creating an inclusive environment in the classroom. This has been such a catch-all phrase, it is virtually meaningless to most teachers caught up with marking, committee work, and various administrative duties – that we forget one of the most important things teachers should do beyond just getting through the curriculum: making students feel a sense of safety and belonging in our classroom.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Illustrated by Patrice Barton. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Book borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.