What If Everybody Thought That? (Ellen Javernick)

Hello, friends! Our book today is What If Everybody Thought That?, written by Ellen Javernick and illustrated by Colleen Madden, a look at the perils of making assumptions based on appearances.

Third in the pair’s series about bullying and discrimination, the reader is introduced to various scenarios in which a child who is different (a girl with alopecia, a boy with dyslexia, etc.) is surrounded by classmates with presumptive thoughts. “He’s too short to play basketball,” a group of taller boys conclude about a team hopeful. “Too bad she can’t do the relay race in that wheelchair”, a pitying peer thinks of her classmate. But what if everybody thought that? They might never learn that the boy with dyslexia is a talented robotics enthusiast, the girl with alopecia knows her way around a stylish wig, the shorter boy is the quickest and nimblest player on the team, and the girl in the wheelchair is the fastest relayist. By judging others based on outward appearances, we often miss out on getting to know their best qualities, or seeing them as well-rounded people. So before you let judgmental thoughts form your opinions, ask yourself: what if everybody thought that?

Wonderful. I wasn’t a huge fan of the previous book in this series, so I went into this one not knowing what to expect, and was very pleasantly surprised. The art and text have a wonderful clarity of tone and purpose that creates a multi-layered look at how destructive thoughts can harm not only the people we have them about, but ourselves as well. Even details like the pseudo-subliminal affirming messages hidden throughout the artwork (“U can do it!”; “Run your own race at your own pace”) help further the message of positive thinking. I really like the idea of teaching kids to question their own biases and examine their gut reactions; it’s a quality that people of any age could use more of, because it allows us to build empathy and understanding. The diversity in the art is fabulous, the length was fine, and JJ enjoyed it. A wonderful reminder to never judge a book by its cover, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Delivery Bear (Laura Gehl)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Delivery Bear, written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Paco Sordo, a story about learning to be yourself.

Zogby the bear has wanted to be a delivery animal since he was a cub. When he sees an ad for a cookie-delivery animal, he hurries to apply. But he faces discrimination from the get-go: the manager says that he simply doesn’t have the Fluffy Tail Cookie “look”. Zogby begs for a chance, and the manager hires him on a trial. His luck, however, seems to end there: at each delivery attempt, Zogby’s clients are terrified and scream at his arrival. Zogby sings the friendly company jingle, even attempts to make himself look more like a bunny, but to no avail. Dejected, he heads back to the headquarters, until the lyrics of the dutifully memorized jingle inspire him to win people over, simply by being himself.

I am conflicted on this one. The premise was promising, a clear reference to discrimination based on appearance and how unfair it is. JJ screamed with laughter during the delivery recipients’ exaggerated reactions to Zogby, and we were enjoying it. But when Zogby decides that he must take it on himself to earn the trust and acceptance of his prejudiced clients in order to keep his dream job… hmm. At the very least, Zogby was deserved an apology for the prejudice that literally drove him to tears, but he didn’t receive it – only acceptance once he assured people that he wasn’t a dangerous bear. Otherwise, the illustrations are very sweet, and Zogby is about as lovable a bear as I’ve ever seen. It’s a good way to start conversations about discrimination, but perhaps not the best way to end them. For the entertainment value and illustrations, this one is Baby Bookworm approved – just be sure to share with bookworms that snap misjudgments are never the fault of the person being judged.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Splashdance (Liz Starin)

Summer Reading Day 81: Hi, everyone! Ms. J was having a tough time today with toothaches, but she was still excited to read her story, Splashdance by Liz Starin. In Splashdance, a polar bear named Ursula is practicing diligently for a water ballet with her partner, until one day she arrives to find that the pool has hung up a sign: “NO BEARS.” Her swimming partner subsequently abandons her for someone he can swim with, leaving Ursula feeling alone and abandoned, disheartened by being banned from doing what she loves. Eventually, Ursula finds that she is not alone in being banned, and she and her fellow outsiders concoct a plan to live their dream of competing in the water ballet event.

This book dealt pretty heavily with the concepts of segregation and discrimination, and it did so very well. Certain plot points relating to Ursula being banned from the pool will certainly resonate with adults, such as when the pool manager insists that he will no longer allow bears because they are too hairy while letting other, hairier animals continue to swim there. Ursula’s plight is dealt with in a way that feels realistic and organic to adults, but is simple enough conceptually for kids to understand and identify with. Furthermore, her eventual triumph with her friends shows that while you may not always be able to change the minds of hateful people, good people will always have your back.

Otherwise, the length of the book was fine for Baby Bookworm, and the illustrations were cute and simple. But to us, it was the story that really shone, particularly after the incidences of racial and gender discrimination at the 2016 Rio Olympics. And ultimately, the message is a great one for all little (and big) readers: people may try to hold you back, but never let them destroy what you love to do; just do your best and you will always win.