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I recently received an email from a mom. She was concerned about playground dynamics and she went on to explain that her daughter was having a tough time with another girl. Her daughter’s “friend” was dictating the play experience – deciding which children could be involved and each child’s “role.” I was absolutely delighted to have a book recommendation for her: You’re Mean, Lily Jean. Selected: First and Best by Toronto Public Libraries in 2009 and nominated for a Blue Spruce Award,
You’re Mean, Lily Jean tells the story of a new girl who moves into the neighbourhood. Lily Jean is the same age as Sandy and is domineering and a braggart. She joins Sandy and her younger sister Carly for a couple of playdates. Lily Jean does not want Carly to be a part of their imaginary games and each time the three girls play together, Lily Jean dictates what they will play and how they will play. She gives the younger sister, Carly, the less desirable “parts” in their imaginary world. Lily Jean and Sandy are the king and queen, Carly is told to be the dog. Lily and Sandy are cowgirls, Carly is told to be the cow. “She did not want to moo or eat grass, but Lily Jean said she had to if she wanted to play. So she did.”
Lily Jean’s smug appearance and Carly’s bitter disappointment are depicted beautifully by Ms. Denton. Readers will cheer for Carly when Sandy decides she would prefer to play with her younger sister than with an overbearing bully.
You’re Mean Lily Jean is best suited to children four and up. It offers many opportunities for children to consider each girl’s perspective and ways to resolve difficult social situations.