A young refugee living in America learns to see herself as beautiful, in spite of physical and emotional scars from her troubled homeland, thanks to a gifted teacher.
Spectacularly Beautiful tells the story of Shahad, a refugee who has moved to a new country and started at a new school with her new teacher, Ms. Truong. Shahad comes to school every day with perfectly braided hair tied in ribbons. But her hair can't hide the scars on her face and leg that are painful reminders of the country she fled, making her feel less than beautiful, and different from her peers. When a class project proves difficult for Shahad, Ms. Truong helps her come to see that her scars are only part of her story, and that she is not just beautiful...she is spectacularly beautiful. Little by little Shahad's confidence is renewed and she is able to return the same kindness to Ms. Truong.
Lisa Lucas started her career writing for Reader's Digest Magazine. She later wrote extensively on literacy and health, scripts for movies and television and historical fiction for Middle Readers. She was awarded the CIBC Children's Miracle Maker Award and the Canada Post Community Literacy Award. Five years ago, she joined forces with Laurie Stein, a Canadian illustrator, and together they have created over 20 children's books. Their work was recently recognized by The Canadian Children's Book Centre. Laurie Stein graduated in 1985 from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, now OCADU, after receiving her BA in Economics at Western U and graduating with a degree in CLASSICAL ANIMATION from Sheridan College in Oakville. Since then, she has been illustrating freelance for books, magazines, apps, promotion and advertising. Her clients include Scholastic, Pearson, MKids, Nelson, Readers' Digest, Sick Kids Hospital, and more. She has worked extensively for a world-renowned children's hospital and her work lines the walls and ceilings throughout. Laurie volunteers teaching painting to those living with cancer through the Art for Cancer Foundation. She lives in Toronto with her husband, three kids, and two big dogs.
Based on a true refugee story, this deep and hopeful book sports colorful, simplified shapes depicting students and their teacher. Stein does not attempt realistic depictions. The children look like jelly beans with limbs, facial features, and hair, and their all-blue teacher is only very slightly more detailed; all are digitally collaged over black-and-white photos of a Western classroom. This surprisingly effective choice allows readers to concentrate on the characters' emotions...This heartening, well-crafted story refreshingly places its emphasis on its protagonist's resilience.
– Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
Stein's illustrations - black-and-white photographs of the classroom, school and nearby areas, populated with cartoon images done with the simplest of lines and filled in with flat colors...- effectively bring out Lucas's poignant parable.