Halibut Jackson

Written and illustrated by David Lucas
32 pages  •  Published 2004 (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Book cover
Recommended Age Range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Publisher's Summary: Halibut Jackson is shy. He would prefer not to be noticed at all. But he loves to make his own suits, especially suits that help him blend into the background: He has a flowered suit for the park, a book-patterned suit for the library, and a fruit-adorned suit for the shops. But mostly he stays indoors. When Halibut’s invited to a party at the palace, he’s too bashful to go, until he decides to make a palace-patterned suit. “No one will even notice me!” he thinks. Except that it’s a garden party . . . and everyone notices Halibut. Soon, he’s the most popular guy in town, thanks to his skills with a needle and thread, and his fabulous fashion sense.
Book cover

Dr. Annie's Takeaways

Recommended for: Children who are shy or afraid to show their true selves will love this book about a shy, quirky guy who works hard to literally blend into the background. He accidentally stands out one day, which causes people to notice him and ultimately love him for who he is.
Would a child like it? It’s a fun story with fun illustrations. Many children will really enjoy this book.
Evidence-Based Practices: Exposure
Tone: Whimsical, sweet
Story Quality: Halibut Jackson is first a good story and second a book about shyness. It’s a delightful, fantastical story about a very shy man who designs suits to literally blend into the background wherever he goes. There’s a fun “Where’s Waldo” aspect to the book–Halibut Jackson is hiding on each page, and kids have to search a bit to find him. The story is somehow simultaneously understated and fabulous, and it has a very sweet ending that allows Halibut to remain “a little shy” while becoming an important, valued member of his community.
Illustrations: Fun, quirky drawings that engage children in finding Halibut despite his efforts to blend in.
Representation: Halibut Jackson is a White man who designs fabulous, whimsical suits. He is invited to a party at a castle with a Black king and White queen. The party has attendees who seem to be royalty from around the world. The guests are dressed in pretty stereotypical outfits; it’s not necessarily overtly offensive, but I think it makes the book show its age a bit (it was published in 2004).
Psychological Practices: This story shows how a shy, quirky guy can remain shy and quirky and still make friends and be beloved by his community. It also has an effective expectancy violation . Halibut works up the courage to go to a party at the castle with the intention of blending into the background; he miscalculates what he needed to wear to blend in and everyone notices him. There’s a moment when the reader is anxious and/or embarrassed for him, but then it resolves by everyone at the party being supportive and enthusiastic about his outfit. It turns into an opportunity for Halibut to contribute his skills and interest to his community (he opens up a shop making quirky, fabulous outfits for the king and queen and all of the townspeople).
Concerns: None

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