Mario the squirrel "likes to invent amazing moves". There's an awesome full page spread of Mario's cool moves. His whole family think's he's amazing. All except Isabelle, who's obviously a math whiz (note the thick glasses and graph paper!). She's easily worked out Mario's moves, plus some cool moves of her own. "That's nice" she tells Mario politely.
After a demonstration of her own amazing move, Mario refuses to be friends with her anymore because A. she stole his move and B. she's not allowed to have a move. Only the amazing Mario is apparently allowed to have moves.
Isabelle points out, very reasonably, that all the animals have moves. She doesn't point out, but quite easily could have, that her move is nothing like Mario's, being much more difficult and involving advanced math as compared to Mario's, which is just a leap through the trees.
Mario goes into a depressed sulk and starts collecting "amazing sticks" that being the only thing he can think of that nobody else can do.
Isabelle, apparently realizing that she has stepped out of the natural order of things, then asks Mario to teach her his move (you know, the one she had previously mastered in, like, ten seconds flat? The one that was really simple compared to her own move?) and tells him how wonderful it was. She was wrong, it's not just nice, it's elegant and graceful! Only Mario can teach her how to jump from point A to point B. She'd probably be willing to do all his math for him if he'll just talk to her and be happy, thus justifying her empty existence without his friendship!
Mario graciously asks her to teach him her move as well. Then together they create even more amazing moves.
I bet when they went to college Isabella did all his research and wrote his papers, all while constantly assuring him that all she needed was to bask in his awesomeness and never get credited for any of her work.
Verdict: Of course I don't think the author deliberately set out to write a story with the message that girls have to constantly stroke boys' egos and can never be better than them or they'll get upset and - gasp - stop talking to them! She probably intended to point out that it's not necessary to be better than everyone and by working together you can do even more amazing things. But you know, group work isn't always better. I'm personally against teaching kids to downplay their own abilities and strengths so as not to make other kids feel bad, although I don't advocate boasting or going out of your way to make people feel inferior. But exactly what is Mario bringing to this equation, other than an over-sensitive ego, poor sportsmanship, and the need for someone to constantly assure him that he's amazing, even when he's not?
ISBN: 9780375868542; Published 2012 by Schwartz and Wade; Borrowed from the library