________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 29 . . . . April 7, 2017


Different But the Same.

Shirley Hartung.
Kitchener, ON: Hartung Press, 2016.
19 pp., pbk., $14.90.
ISBN 978-0-9694115-7-4.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*½ /4



Some kids have an innie belly button.

Some kids have an outie belly button.

What kind of belly button do you have?

In a preface to Different But the Same, Hartung provides her mission statement:

My Mission Statement:

To discourage bullying in older children by encouraging the seemingly natural of young children to accept others different from themselves,[sic] and to continue this attitude through the teen years into adulthood.

      Now a retired teacher, Hartung undoubtedly witnessed bullying-because-of-being-different during her teaching career, and so her intent in writing this short picturebook is a most worthy one. Unfortunately, its execution finds it wanting. While Hartung's examples largely make clear the differences, it is up to the young listener/reader to identify the shared commonalities. Looking at the excerpt above, which opens the book, if I were a young listener/reader, I might simply lift my t-shirt, identify that I'm an innie, and then turn the page without considering the commonality of our all having belly buttons. For the younger end of Different But the Same's audience, the intervention of an adult will likely be most necessary if Hartung's "same" goal is to be achieved.

      Hartung's writing varies in its structure. Initially, she provides the "difference", such as hair types (curly/straight) or skin colour (light/dark), before asking a question of the listener/reader ("What kind of hair do you have?" or "What colour of skin do you have?). She later switches to just making a statement that is followed by a question ("Some kids are thankful for grandparents. Who are you thankful for?" or "Some kids like to dance modern dances. What kind of dance do you like to do?" With the idea of "difference" being implied, rather than stated by Hartung, some listens/readers may just self-focus in answering the question rather than seeking out the "sameness". Even in those instances in which Hartung has provided the difference, she sometimes asks the "wrong" question, such as in the case of "Some kids are born into their family. Some kids are adopted into their family. Who is in your family?" Again, children may only provide egocentric responses.

      Different But the Same is self-published, and, instead of seeking out an illustrator, Hartung, as she explains on the copyright page, "has purchased each of the images used in this book." As many sources were used for illustrations to support the differences, the variety of illustration styles does make the work seem like much less than a unified whole. Overall, the individual illustrations, most cartoon-like, are acceptable, but one is weak and another should have been omitted entirely. The illustration that accompanies "Some kids eat falafels" seems very unfalafel-like while that connected to "Some kids like to dress up and dance traditional dances" shows two cartoon "Indians", complete with feathers, dancing. Such a stereotype of Canada's Indigenous population is not acceptable.

      As noted earlier, Hartung's intent is laudable, but the final product is weak. School and public libraries can pass on Different But the Same.

Not Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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