This 24 page picture book for kindergarten children and up, is sweet in its handling of being labled “different,” without getting overly negative or caught up in the manifestation of discrimination. Unfortunately, with so much emphasis on different religions: the places of worship, the holidays celebrated, the manner of dress, etc., faith becomes inadvertantly highlighted as the root cause for the division and discrimination. Perhaps I am reading too much in to it, and the book just needs a few more examples to make the author’s point that we are all different and unique, but as it is, I didn’t love it, my kids all thought it was cute though, especially my daughter named Zainab.
Zainab walks to school every morning with her mom. She says hi to the neighbor and can’t wait to get to school to her best friend Melissa and her amazing teacher Mrs. Sperber.
One day Melissa and Zainab want to play hide-and-seek and ask Matt if he wants to play too. He responds, “Eww, I don’t want to play with Zainab! My dad said she’s weird and different from us.”
Having never been called that, Zainab is bothered by the words and tells her teacher. The teacher points out that they have different colored hair, but can see that Zainab is still hurt and tells her not to worry, she has an idea.
At circle time the teacher starts of by highlighting differences with the kids identifying their favorite color, and her writting their names on the ones they like best. She then asks about places of worship they visit: churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and again writes their names on the ones they have been to or frequent.
Next she moves on to holidays celebrated, and then special clothing, only hijab is mentioned though. The teacher then discusses feelings and how things about us might be different but our feelings are the same. We like it when we are all nice to each other, and are sad when someone is mean.
Zainab sees her name with different people’s names on the pictures now hanging up and Matt comes and apologizes for being mean earlier. The teacher also mentions that maybe some haven’t visited any of the buildings discussed.
The pictures appear to be done in colored pencil and are colorful and detailed with the pictures of the places of worship bein actual images. The 8.5 by 11 pages are large and would work well at story time or bedtime.
The fact that Matt’s words are assumed to be about religion seems presumptious to me. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, I feel like there needed to be more there. A few pages about things other than faith, in my opinion, would make the message of us all being different in some things and the same in other things a bit more powerful. The pacing too is a bit off. It is a big jump from what is your favorite color to do you go to a church? The resolution is really quick too, as it is tied into feelings, a little bit more of showing the reader, rather than just telling them, would amplify the process and the message.