In her authorial debut, Montreal illustrator Gabrielle Grimard tackles bullying and diversity through the heartbreaking story of Lila, whose new classmates mock her for looking different. Every day, the other students call her a crow because of her dark hair, skin, and eyes. And every day she covers up more and more of herself, trying to hide. It’s no surprise that she dislikes the persistent crows that approach her on her walk home. As the autumn festival approaches, all the other children delight in planning their costumes, but Lila just wants to disappear. When she reaches her saddest depths, the friendship of the crows and the gift of their feathers provide her with a festival costume that lets her embrace her appearance.
Grimard’s watercolour illustrations are a good match for the story’s tone, offering a pale backdrop for the red dress that sets Lila apart from the things around her. Lila is always depicted alone or removed from the other children, creating a tangible sense of loneliness that strengthens the emotional impact of the story. The final images, which show Lila happy in her crow costume and accepted by the other children, offer a warm resolution.
This is ultimately a story about learning to love yourself and embrace the things that set you apart, which is a great concept to offer children who feel like they are different. But the story doesn’t seem interested in addressing the bullies or holding them accountable for the hurt they have caused. For some children, a sense of self-worth will not be enough to soothe the sting of cruelty and prejudice, and this story offers no other suggestion. Still, every book that champions diverse characters is helpful, and Lila is a meaningful example of a girl who finds strength in her differences.