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Margaret Merrifield
Illustrated by Heather Collins

Toronto, Women's Press, 1990. 32pp, paper, $6.95
ISBN 0-88961-141-6. CIP

Kindergarten to Grade 3/Ages 5 to 8
Reviewed by Marilyn Aldworth.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

The title page of this book tells the reader that this is an educational story­book about AIDS and HIV infection far young children and their caregivers. If you miss that brief introduction you couldn't tell that this is a story about AIDS until you get well into the short story. But that is not a criticism, because Come Sit by Me is a gentle introduction to the topic and is appropriate in style and format, in keeping with its intended age group of readers.

It is the only book (that I know of) dealing with AIDS/HIV infection for such young readers, and one may ask if it is really necessary to introduce this topic to young children. My response is a whole-hearted yes, since we know that values are formed at an early age and therefore education and tolerance about social issues must start when children are young.

The illustrations are colourful and appealing and dominate the pages with realistic depictions of day-care and home life situations. The author is a practising physician in London, Ontario, and is also the mother of three children. This is her first published educational story-book for children.

The story starts off with a leisurely introduction to the main character, Karen, and her family and her school. Karen's best friend is Nicholas, who is absent from school many days because he is often sick. One day Karen comes home asking about AIDS because the other kids at her school have stopped playing with Nicholas because he has AIDS. Karen's mother, a doctor, calls a meeting of all the parents and teachers at the school to discuss the facts about AIDS. The story ends on a positive note, with Nicholas and all of his classmates playing happily together. The ending seems rather abrupt and brief compared to the tone and style used in the rest of the story. Perhaps this will provide the opportunity to begin discussion about AIDS and HIV among teachers, students and parents.

There is an excellent information guide for both children and adults at the back of the book. The section for children illustrates how you cannot get HIV or AIDS, and the adult section gives facts in a question/answer format. A resource list of books and AIDS hotline numbers across the country are also included.

A good acquisition for public, school and home libraries.


Marilyn Aldworth, North Vancouver School District, North Vancouver, B.C.
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