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"You are enough" is a message we all need to hear
Can we read? No. 62
Hi there! Let’s just jump right in today, shall we?
You Are Enough: A Book About Inclusion by Sofia Sanchez and Margaret O'Hair, illustrated by Sofia Cardoso (2021)
If you don’t know her, Sofia Sanchez is a 12yo 6th grader with Down Syndrome — on her website she describes herself as an actress, model, self-advocate, and influencer, and that’s precisely what she is.
Inspired by Sofia’s own story, this book is all about the beliefs about acceptance and inclusion that she’s working hard to spread in the world and features many different kinds of diversity — mostly in bodies and abilities, but also in clothing and activities. Less a narrative than a gently didactic anthem to all the things that make us unique individuals, what could have been saccharine is instead deeply affirming — emphasizing that no one is perfect, that friends celebrate you for you, that “being different is what makes you special,” that “you are right exactly as you are.”
Though it lacks the rhyming flow of other books in a similar vein* the messages here are significant enough that I can forgive its slight imperfections. After all, it’s more important to me that I have help in telling my kids this every single day:
Look for the good in the world.
Start by looking in the mirror.
Love what you see there.
And You Are Enough does just that.
Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime by Myra Wolfe, illustrated by Maria Monescillo (2011)
“Charlotte Jane the Hearty came howling into the world with the sunrise,” and her spirit hasn’t dimmed a single watt since. She is full of oomph — “formidable oomph,” according to her father — and she applies this vigor for life (and all things pirate-y, as she and her parents are of the swashbuckling variety) to everything she encounters, but bedtime most of all.
So one evening, she stays up allllll nighhhht lonnnng.
Anyone who has cared for a child in this position — by choice or not — can imagine what happens the next day: Charlotte Jane does not feel hearty. Her oomph is most definitely missing. She and her parents search for the AWOL oomph for hours, and it’s only when Charlotte Jane finally confronts her featherbed that she discovers her missing energy, deep inside her dreams. As the sun comes up the next day, Charlotte Jane somersaults to her feet, oomph fully restored.
Monescillo’s watercolor and digital illustrations are bright and cheerful and perfectly convey not only Charlotte Jane’s fiery personality but just how much her family cherishes her for being exactly who she is. Bedtime battlers — children and the adults who try to subdue them alike — will find much to love in this funny and endearing tale.
Where's Halmoni? by Julie Kim (2017)
In this wildly clever adventure tale, a brother and a sister arrive at their grandmother’s house only to find her missing: where’s Halmoni? (“Halmoni” is Korean for grandmother.) This question leads them, via some animal tracks, to a window — which of course they crawl into — only to find themselves in a strange, unrecognizable, fantastical world.
Nevertheless, they are determined to find their beloved Halmoni, and so they bravely forge ahead, encountering a bevy of mysterious creatures along the way — first, an anxious-but-adorable rabbit, who chatters at them in Korean; then a group of dokkebi (goblins), who steal the kids’ snacks; a tiger in possession of Halmoni’s pot (whom they must battle using rock, paper, scissors to win it back); and a wily, bushy-tailed fox — before finally returning to Halmoni’s house (I won’t spoil how they do this, merely say it is just as unusual as the rest of the story), to find their grandmother, safe and sound. (Be sure to look closely at the endpapers to see if Halmoni is aware of the magic of her window…)
Kim’s watercolor illustrations are full of action — this is a graphic novel picture book, really — and practically glow off the page, which, combined with her immensely creative and entertaining tale, showcases her prodigious talent.
Where’s Halmoni? isn’t going to please every reader — and that’s okay. The ones that are into it will love it; the ones that don’t get it, won’t, but it’s worth a try to see if it’s a fit because it’s a fun and even kind of fascinating read.
The Man in the Moon by William Joyce (2011)
Backstories are, in my opinion, highly underrated. Who doesn’t like to see and understand where someone comes from, how they came to be who and how and why they are?
This is what Joyce has attempted to do with his Guardians of Childhood stories, which focus on a beloved (or at least very well known) mythical figure for children — e.g., the man in the moon — and tells the story of how a round-headed, shining baby grows up to be the leader of the Guardians. There are people who support him (his parents and a special childhood protector named Nightlight) as well as people who wish him harm (Pitch, the King of Nightmares). There is action aplenty: a chase, a battle, a loss. There are strange creatures: Moonbots, Moonmice, and giant Glowworms. There is struggle: to grow up, to find one’s path, to be of service and value in the world (or the galaxy, as it were).
Joyce’s Guardians of Childhood stories — including The Man in the Moon — are whimsical, idiosyncratic, and full of messages about loyalty, responsibility, and love. His illustrations, which are made from a combination of watercolor, oil, acrylic, pen and ink, colored pencils, and computer graphics, are dense, complex, and make possible his fantastically weird worlds full of insects and other imaginative creatures (The Leaf Men; The Mischievians; even Rolie Polie Olie, who is a robot but an insect-y looking one for sure). It’s not surprising he has been involved with the conceptual and art design of some of the best insect and robot movies of the past few decades (Toy Story; A Bug’s Life; Robots, which is super underrated).
This is a backstory worth reading not only for its information (fictional as it may be) but for its incredible imagination. If you have a young child that is into fantasy, seek out this book right away.
Thanks for much for reading today and always (not to mention subscribing to my newsletter — I’m grateful for you!)
Some of my previous reviews of books for babies and toddlers
One Gorilla by Atsuko Morozumi
Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke
Ten Cats Have Hats by Jean Marzollo
(All of these can be found in my Spotlight On: Counting Books)