Hey all! I know it’s been a while –> Covid is a beast, and Long Covid its just as beastly older sibling. But! I am determined to actually write some reviews this year, so here we go.
Short Review: These books are amazing, and if you ever see a sale on them (which is how I wound up with these), grab as many of them as you can. Love, your friendly neighborhood former reading/kindergarten teacher. Now, actual thoughts and paragraphs:
I don’t know what other people’s targeted ads look like, but my friendly neighborhood phone spy (Hi Elliot!) knows me pretty well, so I get a lot of advertisements for picture books and the like. So I’ve seen tons of these “a kids book about” books, and I’ve been curious about them. Without access to my local library, or a bookstore to browse in, and on my tiny income, I couldn’t quite justify spending $20 per book, without knowing if they were actually any good or not, however. A few weeks ago, I saw a half price sale through a television show, and I picked up five of the ones I thought the littles in my life might be most impacted by/interested in. And now, I’m trying to figure out how to buy one a month until I have a complete set.
Checking their website this morning shows that there are currently 38 books for order or pre-order, so that may take me a while, but, if the others are as good as the ones I’ve just sampled, it’ll be well worth it. *Guys I just saw they have a subscription box. I am in so much trouble*
Let me do a general review first: All of these books were excellent, and one of the strengths of the series is that they all had a bunch of strong similarities.
First up, there’s the format of the books, which fill my little typography nerd heart with such joy. There’s no pictures, except the ones made by the stark, simple text. Each book has it’s own simple and representative color palate, that evolves as the book unfolds. An example of this is the book on depression, which starts with white text on a black background, and the background gradually lightens as you move towards the end of the book, as the explanation of how to deal with depression and how it feels like fog lifting when your depression improves is being told. It doesn’t end on an overly simplified, ‘wow everything is fixed and bright white now’ page either, but just on a slightly less dark, purple page, simply shades lighter than where the author started, and it’s so simple, but so appropriate. The thought and care that so obviously went into every aspect of these books – inculding their design -is very clear.
Each book shares an accessibility in text (I would judge these to be between beginning/emergent and fluent reading levels, depending on both the kid and the topic in question), but also in their approach to hard subjects. From the first page’s explanation that these books might be better when read with an adult, to providing adults with intro/exit letters in each book, to the idea that each book is best used as a starting point for important conversations with kids, as opposed to the be-all, end-all authority on the topic, these books are so obviously crafted with deliberate & knowledgeable intent. They have age ranges on them (the books I’ve included here range from 5+ – disability, to 6+ – racism & anxiety, to 7+ depression & body image), and have an excellent summary and sort of pictorial trigger warnings on the back cover (a little emoji saying that the book discusses curiousity, fear, crying, bravery, hate, etc).
More specifically, each of the books covered their topics in simple & non-infantilized terms, which is SUCH a hard line to walk. A lot of books for kids either talk waaaay down to them, or go over their heads, especially when discussing topics as complicated as race or body image, but I didn’t find any of that in any of these five books. Just simple definitions and explanations, supported by the text & imagery, and thoroughly broken down into easy nuggets of truth that kids can easily grasp. In fact, some of their definitions and descriptions were so on point that I know kids much older than starting age for these books -I’m having my college age nephew read the depression one on his next weekend home, and his 14 year old sister read the anxiety book this morning and said “YUP!” – will also surely benefit from them, as will the adults in their lives.
Consider this definition of breaking through depression: “Sharing about my depression took the bricks from the walls built around my heart. And turned them into a bridge. A bridge back to me. The real me.” In fact? Sometimes I think these books are going to benefit their parents even more than they’ll benefit their kids, and for one simple reason: Because by making these things more accessible to kids, they’ve opened them new ways for adults to look at and consider them as well.
Since it’s been a while, a little reminder: I’m a disabled & chronically ill woman, an advocate for disabled people, and I’ve mentioned here previously that my specialization when working on my Master’s degree was the portrayal of characters with disabilities in picture books. So the book about disabilities was particularly of interest to me, and I was not disappointed at all. In fact, it’s my favorite of the bunch, and I’ll tell you why: The author, a disabled teacher herself, comes right out and tells kids that they are better at respecting disabled people than their grown ups: “Kids are good at being curious and respectful, including and not excluding. Grownups are usually just afraid they’ll say or do the wrong thing.” And that is the truth – no kid has ever stopped me in the mall and asked me about my sex life, or made a face when I’ve stood up to transfer into a different seat. Kids sometimes will say “what’s wrong with your legs?” but they never say it in a mean or dismissive way; they usually actually want to know why my legs don’t work. And when I explain that it’s not my legs that don’t work right, but my heart, they tend to think it’s pretty cool, instead of giving me the ’tilted head of pity’ that disabled people know oh so well. So a book that says “Having a disability is one of the many ways to be normal.” and “Disabled people belong everywhere.” straight out loud and simple like that? Kids ae going to be like “of course! duh.” and their parents are hopefully going to start seeing it just that simply too.
Here are a few other examples, from either the text of the books or the parent’s notes in those books:
“Mental health is communication, relationships, strong coping skills, and how you take care of your mind.” – a kids book about anxiety
“Kids are ready and willing to learn about tough things, if only the grown-ups in their lives are willing to talk about them.” – a kids book about racism
“Vulnerability is the soil of connection & growth” – a kids book about depression
“These companies would never make a single dollar if you didn’t believe there was something about you that needed to be fixed. Nothing about you needs to be fixed.” – a kids book about body image
Each of these books is going to be an essential resource for the parents & kids in my life, and if I was still teaching, I would immediately have requested as many as possible for my classroom. My next purchases are going to be some of the more upbeat titles – community, kindness, adventure, probably – just for some balance, but I don’t think I’m going to find many disappointments in the series. The utter compassion and care that each of these books has towards its topics, and the children & parents they’re trying to talk to about these topics, shines through on every page, and if you were thinking about buying one, but weren’t sure how good they were, I hope this review can give you that little push to at least give one a try.