Book Bites: I Am Me - Picture Books About Self

Young children may not be consciously aware of it but every interaction and reaction they encounter builds their unique sense of self. Identity: a cryptic collection of characteristics, mindsets and personality traits that describe who you are to the world. But who are we really? And why is it important that children understand and develop their sense of self? What I love about this small collection of picture books is their ability to combine the notion of loving who you are in relatable visual story lines without explicitly forcing ideals down our throats. When less emphasis is given to maintaining differences and energies refocused on the actual joys of living, greater understanding and harmony is assured. So, let’s start our journey of self-discovery…

Who am I?

Philip Bunting is well-known for his strikingly simple artwork and nimble narratives. His ability to dress non fictional facts with tongue-in-cheek- humour ensures maximum enjoyment and depth of learning. This book not only exemplifies this but addresses the transcendental conundrum of who we are by describing in detail what we are not. Bunting explains we are not our individual components such as name, thoughts, possessions, gender, guts (and associated stuff within) or even our emotions but rather a glorious combination of them all, unique and unrepeatable. Most powerful of all, is his clarification that the very essence of us is something no one can really define or even agree on what to call but is something we all possess and have in common. We are all one yet wondrously different. We share the same everythings, exist on the same small planet yet we each have the ability to choose exactly who we will be. Who am I? is sufficiently scientific to captivate, satisfyingly comical to humour, and profound enough to set small minds (and big ones) whirling with possibilities.

Pure brilliance.

Title: Who Am I?
Author / Illustrator: Philip Bunting
Publisher: Omnibus Books, $17.99
Publication Date: June 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781743834084
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Readings, Booktopia

I Am Perfectly Designed

The end pages of I Am Perfectly Designed invite young readers into a warm embrace of humankind. Diversity is shown in a rainbow of skin tones and the bright smiles on a dozen different faces. It’s a simple tale of shared acknowledgments between a son and his father: first there was just dad, now there’s me, together there’s us! As the father son relationship evolves over time, the affirmations change; the baby boy was once the bald one, now it’s the father who has no hair. These simple comparisons allow the pair room to remember their past together and speculate about the future through which, one empowering notion resonates: that no matter where they end up, they are perfectly designed to always be together. Because that is what unconditional love looks like. Undeniably a beautiful tribute to fathers and sons, I Am Perfectly Designed also celebrates individuality and the paths of self-discovery making it suitable to share in any family dynamic.

Title: I Am Perfectly Designed
Author: Karamo Brown with Jason ‘Rachel’ Brown
Illustrator: Anoosha Syed
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia, $24.99
Publication Date: November 2019
Format: Hardcover (Paperback May 2020)
ISBN: 9781529036152
For ages: 4 – 8
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Pan Macmillan, Boomerang Books, Booktopia

Jump!

One day in the Cloud Tower, a clutch of baby Quigs roll out of their eggs. Four of them quickly accustom themselves to their sky-high home; jumping and swinging fearlessly from tower to tower. The fifth does not. Unlike his brothers and sisters, the forth little Quig’s fins are stumpy and thin. Wide open spaces and huge drops terrify him. Beneath their cape of cruel critcisms, ‘Stumpy’ slinks down to the streets below Cloud Tower to live among the shadows. The curious under-tower dwellers repeatedly remind Stumpy that he should be frolicking above but Stumpy does not feel like he belongs aloft at all. After reluctantly returning to the Tower, Stumpy is victim to his siblings’ relentless jibes to jump, jump, JUMP! So, eventually he does…

Jump! is a fantastical and imaginative tale of taking a leap into the unknown, of believing in yourself enough to risk all and in finding your true calling. Stumpy represents our inner uncertainties, a creature of self-doubt purely because whenever he compares himself to others, he always comes up short. His tale underlines the adage that if we never make a leap of faith, how do we know if we can fly or not? This is a powerful concept to instil in young minds and Plant's warming colour palette and cute Quig characters tackle themes of bullying, disability and self-esteem with sensitivity and originality.

An emotive visual joy!

Title: Jump!
Author Illustrator: Andrew Plant
Publisher: Ford Street Publishing, $16.95
Publication Date: March 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925804461
For ages: 4 – 8
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Ford Street Publishing, Booktopia, Boomerang Books (hardcover)

My Mama

If a child’s mindset is partially or wholly the result of their upbringing, then My Mama is the sort of story that should be part of any parent’s treasure chest of influencing blessings. Sweet and unadorned this translated Dutch picture book story is anthropomorphically told through the eyes of a baby elephant though of course it relates to any and all children and is made even more potent by the universal belief of very young children that their mothers are arguably the best thing in their lives. Little elephant loves his mother unconditionally and has learnt that through her love for him, he can do anything, be anything and achieve anything; even flight. Gorgeous line illustrations flecked with ribbons of rainbow that focus just on mother and child fill the pages with joyful mellowness. A comforting book to share.

Title: My Mama
Author Illustrator: Annemarie van Haeringen 
Translator: Bill Nagelkerke
Publisher: Gecko Press, $16.99
Publication Date: April 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN:
9781776572687
For ages: 2 – 5
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Gecko Press (NZ), Boomerang Books, Booktopia

My Daddy Is Different

We are often defined not just by who we are but by what we experience. Children experiencing situations out of their control may develop anxiety, self-doubt and confusion, especially if that situation involves a parent. Parents are supposed to be rock solid, safe harbours of security and reassurance. So what happens when they aren’t?

The rainbow bedecked, father and son cover of, My Daddy Is Different suggests a number of storylines. Turns out, the focal point is about the mental illness of a parent from a child’s point of view and how both he and his father work to overcome feelings of uncertainty and despair. A small boy describes how although his daddy looks and sounds much like everyone else’s daddy, something strange and sinister, something different eventually smothers his daddy, dulling all his colour and familiarity. The boy finds it hard to accept his father’s illness even after he knows about it. Too much has changed causing a major shift in the boy’s own mental wellbeing. He is ashamed and terrified, bereft and wondering. Through expressive watercolour illustrations and soothing narrative, creators, Suzi Faed and Lisa Coutts, gently escort the boy through his tumult of emotions until colour returns and he realises that daddy is not the stranger he first feared. A powerful and loving assurance about a not-so-uncommon affliction that will augment self-esteem and emotional resilience in children and their families.

Title: My Daddy Is Different
Author: Suzi Faed
Illustrator: Lisa Coutts
Publisher: Empowering Resources, 17.00
Publication Date: January 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925592184
For ages: 5+
Type:
Picture Book

Buy the Book: Empowering Resources, Boomerang Books, Booktopia

All Are Welcome

In a classroom somewhere on this planet, children of every creed, religion, skin colour and gender learn, play, eat, dance, create, share, jump, joke and play … together. The premise is more than obvious, simple and unashamed: All are welcome here. That’s it. And really, that is all there should be because our children’s perceptions of themselves and of others are ultimately coloured by our own. If this illustration of humility is painted for them in the right way from the outset, then surely it stands to reason that empathy and caring will reign supreme. This book endeavours to take this Utopian ideal and make it a reality.

 All Are Welcome is a touch zealous emphasizing this concept but it does in fact leave you with a bubbling sense of hope. Why shouldn’t we all be welcome under the same roof? We all share the same need to eat and love and dream. Does it matter if the bread we eat comes in a thousand different shapes and sizes? It is still bread. Illustrations that ooze cheer and frivolity and reflect dozens of different colourful cultures embrace repeating phraseology which reinforces the notion that despite every glorious difference, we are all the same. This is definitive picture book diversity. It is bright, bold and concentrates on celebrating similarities and kindness rather than simply perpetuating hatred through side-taking. For this reason it should be a compulsory classroom read and discussion starter.

Title: All Are Welcome
Author: Alexandra Penfold
Illustrator: Suzanne Kaufman
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Publication Date: February 2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781526604071
For ages: 4 – 8
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Bloomsbury Books, Booktopia

Be sure to visit again for my review of a picture book that truly exemplifies the essence of being true to your self and celebrates notions of identity with open arms. My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart airs Monday 27 July. Don't miss it!


Comments

Norah Colvin said…
A wonderful collection, Dimity, each contributing something a little different to the discussion and encouraging new growth.
DimbutNice said…
Yes, Norah! Thought you'd like this one. Some many wonderful books on this topic to choose from. D
Suzi Faed said…
Thanks for the great review of My Daddy is Different, Dimity. Looks like some wonderful titles here to encourage discussions with young kids.
DimbutNice said…
My pleasure, Suzi! And yes, so much to choose from but all helpful for children and their families. :-)

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