________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 19. . . .January 19, 2016


Noni Speaks Up.

Heather Hartt-Sussman. Illustrated by Geneviève Côté.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2016.
24 pp., hardcover & epub, $17.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-839-6 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77049-840-2 (epub).

Preschool-kindergarten / Ages 2-5.

Review by Myra Junyk.

***½ /4


Noni would love to step in when the kids make fun of his name.
And his size.
And his giant glasses.
But Noni is so afraid of making enemies that she just stands there. Speechless.


Noni dreads standing up to the schoolyard bullies when they attack the unfortunate Hector. She is the type of person who always “tries to do the right thing” by giving up her seat to seniors and returning change to a man who dropped it. However, when she sees kids bullying her classmate Hector, she is paralyzed. “She cannot get out a single word.”

     When Noni was small, she didn’t care about people liking her. She loved her mother and her father and was very happy playing by herself. However, now that she is at school, Noni likes having friends who talk to her and spend time with her. When these same friends tell her that they “all hate Hector”, Noni is silent. She is not proud of her actions because she does not stand up for Hector. She is so upset that she can’t sleep. She fears that, if she defends Hector, she will be ostracized by her friends. In the end, Noni decides to do the right thing by standing up to the bullies in her class.

     Noni has made some important discoveries. She believes in doing what is right, but when there is a chance that her friends will desert her, she hesitates. Standing up to bullies is never easy. It takes courage and determination to defend people who cannot defend themselves against abusive words and cruel behaviour. When Noni does the right thing and defends Hector, she ignores the bullies. Hector now feels better about himself as they walk away from the bullies together! Noni has learned some valuable lessons about conquering fears, standing up to bullies and acting according to her beliefs.

     Heather Hartt-Sussman’s endearing story begins by describing Noni’s actions as she “always tries to do the right thing”. The book moves on to explore how Noni copes with watching her friends bully a fellow student. Their actions are definitely against her beliefs, but what will she do about it? Will she defend Hector, or go along with her bullying friends for fear of what they will do to her? The story is told with repetitive simple sentences. The pattern of sentence structures will definitely appeal to young children. The writer uses vivid yet simple descriptions to make the story come to life.

     Geneviève Côté’s illustrations add a great deal to this picture book. Noni is a realistic character whose friendly face will appeal to young readers facing bullies in their own school environments. Her slightly messy hairdo, rosy cheeks, as well as her simple clothing, are all very realistic. Côté is a very accomplished author and illustrator living in Montreal. She has won many awards for her work, including the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Illustration. This is the third collaboration between the writer and the illustrator who also worked together on Noni Says No and Noni is Nervous.

     Young readers will definitely enjoy this beautiful picture book! Noni Speaks Up would be particularly useful for parents and teachers as a read-aloud. Young readers could participate in a shared reading experience or could dramatize the story by taking on the roles of the characters in the story. They could also discuss what happens after the picture book ends. The story will provide the basis for lively discussion with parents. caregivers or teachers on topics such as bullying, peer pressure, friendship, responsibility and caring for others.

Highly Recommended.

Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, resides in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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