Marty by Rachel Noble & Zoey Abbott

I got really emotional finishing up this affecting picture book, in a way that my kids understandably didn’t. As an open borders absolutist, many of this book’s gentle lessons were old hat to me, but they were presented in such a manner as to remind me of the constant tension between truth and assimilation, that people should be valued and not forced to shun the spotlight in order to “belong”, and that we’re all the poorer for it when we’re forced to hide our beneficial talents and joys.

Ofc, these lessons were communicated in far fewer words by Marty, a picture book about a Martian who comes to Earth and wears various disguises in order to fit in. It charts his highs and lows as he hides his alien-ness; works and is sociable, and enjoys costume parades but feels sad when it’s all over and everyone else gets to go home and be a “normal” person. Being a kids’ book, this title has a happy ending that my kids appreciated, tho definitely in more of a general “we should be kind to people even if they’re different” sort of way. Which, ofc, is still a great lesson for kids to learn.

As an adult, I definitely had a more sophisticated perspective. While my heart ached with longing at the fuss-free conflict resolution, I was also deeply impressed by the tone: if we just learn to open our hearts and accept the validity of other people, give them a chance to contribute to society instead of automatically labeling and judging based solely on that label instead of the more important issue of character, we’d be a much stronger, happier people. I understandably viewed this from an immigrant’s perspective, but the lesson applies to anyone who would be viewed as different and thus lesser than for being superficially outside of what’s considered mainstream.

Rachel Noble does a wonderful job distilling all this into simple, affecting words, ably aided by Zoey Abbott’s delightfully whimsical yet equally moving watercolors. My 10 year-old especially enjoyed all the different costumes Marty employed. One note: definitely take off the dust jacket at some point so you can look at the sweet illustration on the front cover, too.

Marty by Rachel Noble & Zoey Abbott was published July 6 2021 by Holiday House and is available from all good booksellers, including

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