Written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
This book shows four kids at school who are facing challenges because of their differences–one feels self-conscious about her hair and how she didn’t travel to cool places over the summer like her classmates, another about his name, another about not being good at the games all the other kids play, and another about her lunch being so foreign to the other kids. The experiences this book portrays are really common! They are so helpful for kids to see to realize that they’re not alone in their experiences. We see the kids in the story all feel embarrassed, lonely, or nervous about their personal differences, until the turning point halfway through which takes us back through each scenario and shows how they are brave in embracing their differences and happy that they are unique. At the end, we see two of the kids who had struggled earlier support each other and be kind to each other, making both of them feel happy and included.
The book is filled with diverse illustrations, beautiful language, and the way that the author writes in many of the feelings of the kids is so beneficial. Splitting the book in half with the hard experiences first and the positivity about them second makes that change easy to understand. The ending of the book leaves us with a positive note about not only feeling good about yourself, but showing how we can be inclusive to others as well.
During the reading:
- Talk about the feelings of the main character as you read- on the second page, ask your child how they think she’s feeling since her hair is different than the other kids! Help them to recognize that she’s embarrassed to be different and to relate to that. You could ask them if they’ve ever felt something like that, or share an experience when you were embarrassed to be different.
- Follow a similar pattern with the first bullet point with all the other kids – talk about how she feels when she can’t say that she went to a cool place over the summer like her classmates. Talk about how the other girl feels embarrassed that her lunch is different and not everybody eats the same foods, or how the boy sad because he’s not very good at the sports and games the other kids play so he feels lonely. As you help your child to recognize and especially name these emotions, they will be better prepared to deal with them in themselves and help others through them.
- When we see things turn around with the little boy being brave, talk about what that means to be brave! Find out what your child thinks about the word, or how they think it feels to be brave. Tell them your ideas, too.
- Explain how being brave can be telling the truth about what you did and that you like different activities.
- You could talk about how your child feels about reading if that’s something they love, or if it’s something difficult, talk about how you could find some books that will take you on cool adventures, too.
- Point out how Rigoberto was so nice to the girl in his class and how your child can be nice to kids in their class at school.
- Emphasize how the kids are happy being different and are nice to each other even when it’s hard to find things in common. Maybe tell the story of that happening to you personally, or ask your child if they were nice to somebody at school who was different from themselves or different from many other classmates, and show them how they are similar to the characters in the story in positive ways. Talk about how they felt as they were nice to the other kids, or another kid was nice to them.
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Have you tried any of these ideas? Comment below to share how they worked for your family!