Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Children’s Book Review, Be a Friend

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Be a Friend is a children’s picture book, created by Salina Yoon and published by Bloomsbury (2016).

From the publisher:

Dennis is an ordinary boy who expresses himself in extraordinary ways. Some children do show-and-tell. Dennis mimes his. Some children climb trees. Dennis is happy to BE a tree . . . But being a mime can be lonely. It isn't until Dennis meets a girl named Joy that he discovers the power of friendship--and how special he truly is! At its core, this book is a heartwarming story of self-acceptance, courage, and unbreakable friendship for anyone who has ever felt "different."

Feeling “different” can, for some children, be cause for rejoicing; for others, it means they feel alone and lonely, convinced there’s isn’t anyone who sees them truly and wants them as a friend. Dennis doesn’t communicate conventionally. Instead he mimes. He also wears the black and white outfit of a classic French mime. When the kids show and tell, Dennis mimes, and the other children call him Mime Boy. While kids climb and play in a tree, Dennis becomes a tree.

“But even trees get lonely sometimes.”

Then Joy arrives in his life, catching his imaginary ball and miming with him. Instead of a wall, it feels as if there is a mirror between them. They don’t speak, because friends don’t need to. Instead they laugh aloud (and with their hands) as they play with the other kids.

Yoon’s illustrations are superb. The movement of mime hands are indicated in strong red dotted lines, the only touch of colour against the black, white and sepia of Dennis’s world until Joy comes along. Each page has striking art work, enhancing what I believe to be a beautiful and important children’s picture book. For those who work with children, there are many opportunities for sharing and discussion, and for enjoyment and reflection. We are all alike and different, but each of us is special.

I believe it’s important to provide reassuring material for kids who do feel like outsiders. Be a Friend is an excellent resource for them. It’s also a great story for sharing with ALL kids, because they get the chance to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. By looking at the world through Dennis and Joy’s eyes, and by participating in constructive discussion about the story, children have the chance to open their minds and develop empathy for anyone deemed “different”. Wonderful!

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  1. Looks like a beautiful book! Thanks for sharing it.

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