15 November 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True

Not being afraid to be yourself is a common theme in children's literature.  Children struggle with fitting in and peer pressure, even kids Isaac's age, and understanding that it is okay to be different or that everyone has special talents is difficult.

Two of the books on the North Carolina Children's Book Award list this year are variations on this theme.  Sylvie by Jennifer Sattler is about a flamingo who begins experimenting with different foods after finding out that it is the shrimp that she eats that makes her pink.  After turning every shade of the rainbow, and a few wild patterns, and suffering from a pretty bad tummy ache, Sylvie realizes that pink is fine.  But being a little different can be fun, too.

Most often the books that explore how children deal with feelings of personal expression or inadequacies have female main characters.  Hmm . . . tell you something about girls?  But a few do feature boys.  Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is about a little spoon who doesn't feel special.  He can't do the cool things that fork, knife or chopsticks can do.  But his wise mother points out to him everything that he can do that the others cannot, and he gains a greater appreciation for his uniqueness.

The NCCBA books are recommended by children.  The fact that each year there are at least one or two that feature characters that are different or feel like they do not fit in is rather telling, I think.  Kids are very sensitive about how others perceive them and wanting to fit in and be liked begins at an early age.  Books are one way to help them through those difficult times when it seems like no one likes them or there is nothing about them that is special.  Sharing the book with a caring adult is even better.

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