In Briggsy’s Time to Shine, Linda McKinley delivers a quirky story about musical instruments, bullying, and finding pride in yourself.
The book opens on the first day of a kindergarten music class. Each student gets to choose an instrument, which are all anthropomorphic. The instruments introduce themselves, and readers learn about the smooth French horn, the high-pitched piccolo, the rumbling drum, and many others.
At the end of the procession, we find that Briggsy, the tuba, has been hiding: Year after year, he’s teased for being too loud, with too simple a sound. But all the other instruments were paired up while he hid, so now Briggsy feels even more lonely. Luckily, a new student, Paulo, arrives and is thrilled to see Briggsy because he played the tuba at his last school. He and Briggsy pair up, and everyone learns that tubas actually can sound pleasant. Briggsy embraces his unique qualities, and the new student makes his first friend.
While the positive moral can help adults navigate conversations about self-confidence, bullying, and appreciating others, the story’s execution is uneven. For example, although introducing several different instruments is a nice foray into music education, the inclusion of seven options before reaching Briggsy seems unnecessary and delays getting to the heart of the story (or meeting the title character) until page 14.
Also, the new student Paulo drops a few Spanish words into his mostly English dialogue (e.g., “Amo la tuba! I love the tuba!”). While this is a nice idea, it ultimately feels out of place, given that the Spanish words only appear on one page of the text and aren’t woven into the larger story.
Finally, the blocks of text feel dense for young readers, and the story is long and somewhat meandering, diluting its impact.
Briggsy’s Time to Shine is a unique way to frame a conversation about self-confidence, but would have benefited from a leaner telling and more narrative balance between its various elements.
Also available as an ebook.