I was not going to pair these two picture books together, but then realized that even if I could do a 250 worded review on each, they have the similar theme of doing hard things, of stepping outside their comfort zone. The way each character does the hard thing is different, but good for today’s contemporary audience. (Please note both titles were read via online reader copies). Both books would work well as a one-on-one read or for a classroom setting.
At first, I thought Jeffrey Loves Blue would be a biography on a famous painter who used blue. And while Jeffrey is a painter and uses blue, they are not famous. But they are famous for using all the blue paint. They are famous for their blue clothes, hats, socks, and more. They love blue and never want to share it. Though, when a friend is upset that Jeffrey used all the paint (as she wanted to use blue, too) that makes Jeffrey feel bad. But we realized early on that he is not your typical neurotypical child, and he needs to process this differently than others would. And that thought process is what the rest of the book is about. Lorretta Garbutt’s story is not pushy or preachy as some books about neurodivergent children can be. I liked the straight forwardness of it. It is relatable to those of us who have a child like Jeffrey in our lives or allows us to see why the actions are happening. Due mid-September 2023. And while one should not judge a book by its cover, you can this one. Lily Snowden-Fine made internal images that are both simpler but have a depth to them that allows them to be both their own character, without overwhelming the story, and supports it.
And we see another child, Sam, doing similar things, or stepping out of his comfort zone, by doing things that are hard, in Step by Step. While Sam’s hard is different from Jeffrey’s hard (Jeffrey must give up something that he has hyper focus on; Sam does not like doing things that are different or his considers scary), they both must find coping mechanisms. Sam and his mom work on tasks that can help Sam take things one step at a time, to work himself up to the event. Such as, going to a friend’s house for the first time? Well, what can we do? Sam, breathes and goes through his mental check list. Kat Boger’s story is more simplistic than Garbutt’s, but still is strong. And due to the younger, contemporary looking illustrations of Hiroe Nakata, this book works well for the toddler up crowd, and Jeffrey’s story better for the five and up crowd. Additional information for parents, caregivers, teachers, etc. is included at the end.