CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 1. . . .September 9, 2016
What Makes Us Unique? Our First Talk About Diversity. (Just Enough: Difficult Topics Made Easy).
Jillian Roberts. Illustrated by Cindy Revell.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
32 pp., hc., pdf & epub, $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0948-2 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0949-9 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0950-5 (epub).
Cultural pluralism-Juvenile literature.
Difference (Psychology)-Juvenile literature.
Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.
Review by Reesa Cohen.
In Nature, a rainbow is made beautiful by all of its different colors.
And just like that rainbow, the world is made beautiful
because it’s filled with many different kinds of people.
What Makes Us Unique? Our First Talk About Diversity is the second in the series of “Just Enough: Difficult Topics Made Easy”, and as with the first, What Happens When A Loved One Dies?, the text embraces the question and answer format effectively, exploring the concept of differences in our world. In this offering, diversity in all its aspects is explored, highlighting the potpourri of people in colours, shapes and sizes and relating these differences to ideas that young children can grasp and relate to. Diversity is taken a step further using variety in mobility, personalities, communication and cultures. Even the variation of how families are formed and made is broached. In short, Dr. Roberts runs the full range of this topic, which results in stretching the outer limits of information on this concept as she briefly mentions even other differences, using jobs, homes, clothes, as examples.
A section at the end of the book, entitled “Just A Few More Questions” covers the sensitive topics of gender identity, racism and prejudice and would be more suitable to an older age range beyond that identified by the publisher.
The value of diversity is woven through the child-like drawings and reinforces the topic of variety and uniqueness. The illustrations sparkle with colour and warmth. Revell’s watercolours aid in the uplifting and approachable nature of the text.
The underlying powerful message is one of respecting the variety in our world, and readers are left with the optimistic spin of celebrating differences. It is never too early to teach even the youngest that we are all different and special in our own way. In our difficult, sometimes toxic world today, we need tools like What Makes Us Unique? to help our children cherish diversity, whether it is cultural, racial, religious, so that acceptance, tolerance and inclusion are ideas that can become second nature to them. Dr. Roberts intention was to have the difficult and sometimes controversial topics covered in this series used as a conversation starter. This a most worthy goal. But trying to cover the “waterfront” of the totality of diversity is not necessary for this age group. However, taking a positive tone about these topics, early in children’s lives is important and can a have a lasting effect on them.
Some other books that explore our uniqueness and empower children to have compassion and empathy for others who are different include: A Rainbow of Friends by P. K. Hallinan; Free to Be You and Me by Marlo Thomas, and It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr
Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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