Weirdo

Authored by Zadie Smith & Nick Laird
Illustrated by Magenta Fox
Published by Penguin

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Weirdo follows Maud – guinea pig, judoka and birthday present – on the day of the relocation to her new home.

Maud arrives at Kit’s house on the day of her birthday. Kit, the birthday girl, wakes up to find her surprise sleeping cozily in her judoji. ‘But why’s she dressed like that?’ is the first of many questions that the characters will ask themselves about Maud. Kit and her parents leave for school and work and ‘the surprise’ is left at home with Kit’s other pets: Derrick the bird, Dora the cat and Bob the pug. It is clear from the start that they feel rather suspicious, and a little intimidated, by this new addition to the family. ‘She’s a weirdo’ states Dora the cat, and everyone agrees. The pets don’t make life easy for Maud: they have a tight schedule which they are not willing to compromise on to include any of her hobbies. It is when Maud, eager to change to fit in with the gang, accidentally flies out of the window and meets a very peculiar neighbour – Emily Brookstein – that she realises that, after all, being different is not weird at all.

Weirdo is a warm tale that depicts the struggles of being othered and finding acceptance. Zadie Smith and Nick Laird, portray an example of resilience and compassion, which carries a positive message that will resonate with everyone who has ever felt and been excluded. Magenta Fox, illustrator, ingeniously adds layers of representation to the story: the illustrations, together with the framed pictures in the background, tell the story of a mixed race family who live in a tower block and peacefully coexist with people who are very different from one another. There is a variety of organisation of text and illustrations throughout the book which complement and enrich the narrative. Some pages close up on Maud, Kit and the pets and give us insight on their feelings. The pages where Maud and Emily spend the afternoon at her flat have various illustrations and the text is written in between those; this suggests that they clicked, had fun and time went by quickly. Some pages are framed with a rectangular border which creates a sense of uneasiness, for example when Maud dyes her hair and puts on wings to try and look like Dora.

Weirdo would be an excellent addition to any school library and classroom bookshelf. It would be a great starting point for PSHE lessons about being different, jealousy and acceptance.

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