[DiverseKidLit] Of Names, Labels, Bullies, and Feeling Comfortable in One’s Own Skin in Picturebooks

Myra here.

Diverse Children’s Books is a brand new book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

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We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact Katie at 1logonaut (gmail).

We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, May 21st.

For today’s post, I have two picturebooks that show how one may be able to go beyond one’s name, colour, labels – and ultimately find a quiet acceptance with one’s self – regardless of how people may bully or perceive you differently. This is also in keeping with our current reading theme this May-June: Universal Republic of Childhood.

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Chrysanthemum

Written and Illustrated by: Kevin Henkes
Published by: Greenwillow Books, 1991 ISBN: 0688147321 (ISBN13: 9780688147327)
Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Chrysanthemum is a well-loved child – she has parents who doted on her, read her to sleep, spend quality time with her. She also adores her beautiful name – she enjoys saying it out loud, the way it rolls off her tongue; and she also enjoys writing it down in crayon, pencil, even icing on a cake.

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But all this changed when she started going to school and her classmates started making fun of her name. Victoria, in particular, was quite insufferable. Whenever Chrysanthemum comes home in tears because of some cruel remark that her classmates have thought up, I loved how her parents attempted to make her feel better by calling her “precious and priceless and fascinating and winsome.” Henkes also adds an entirely different layer to the narrative with his art (see below):

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I especially liked the Picasso-mouse painting. Here is another one:

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indicating how Chrysanthemum’s parents are actually pretty bothered by what she is going through and seeks to understand it better by consulting the experts and providing her with comfort food – chocolate cake with buttercream frosting sounds particularly delicious.

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I also liked the music teacher, Miss Twinkle. She is a reminder of the importance of having caring and compassionate teachers whose studiedly-casual remarks may actually serve to change the dynamics in the classroom and ultimately, a child’s life. For teachers who may wish to use this in the classroom, here is a list of suggested activities from teachingheart.net.


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Red: A Crayon’s Story

Written and Illustrated byMichael Hall
Published by: Greenwillow Books, 2015 ISBN: 0062252097 (ISBN13: 9780062252098)
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. Book Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2015)

When I read this book last year, I was floored by its simplicity and its brilliance. Just imagine what it’s like to be red and to not be very good at it.

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In a deceptively-simple story, Hall was able to capture the distinct sensation of being labeled one thing when one feels entirely like something else. I thought that Hall’s use of crayons was particularly brilliant as it shows in such a concretely-stark fashion just how practically nonsensical people’s expectations are of people who are so obviously different from how people expect them to be. It also captures the well-meaning intentions of teachers and parents in ensuring that Red stays red:

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Faced with something that goes against the grain of societal expectations, it is fairly easy to pronounce judgments, as the oddity seems like an affront to everyone else, all predicated upon an inherently faulty assumption of what one believes the other should be.

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This can become so dangerously insidious that it may make one truly wonder about one’s nature, and could very well lead to denying one’s own truth and breaking one’s spirit:

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And sometimes, all it takes is one open-minded purple boat to think outside self-imposed confinements to set red free, allowing it to be its gloriously-blue self. I think this is a perfect book for teachers and parents, as it forces us to really reflect on the things we do to allow individuality and identity to flourish under our guidance. For teachers who wish to use this in the classroom, here is a 9-paged downloadable pdf resource created by Scholastic that includes suggested activities and discussion questions in the classroom.

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Hosted By:
Katie @ The Logonauts
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestBeth @ Pages and Margins
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Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me
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Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors
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Mia @ Pragmatic Mom
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Myra @ Gathering Books
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Guest Host for May

Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries
Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

 

6 Comments on [DiverseKidLit] Of Names, Labels, Bullies, and Feeling Comfortable in One’s Own Skin in Picturebooks

  1. Both of these books are wonderful and perfect to read when dealing with teasing and bullying.
    I especially like using Chrysanthemum with children while talking about names. In a multi-cultural classroom there are often children whose names are unfamiliar to western ears and sometimes difficult to pronounce. I like to talk about names and have children ask their parents how they chose the names for their child. If you want to start a great discussion try this.
    In the case of our family, we had the decision to make regarding the children’s given names when we adopted them. Not easy – we kept part of their name to maintain their cultural identity. Our kids were babies – not sure I’d do the same thing if the children had been older. Thankfully, our children like their names.

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  2. Red was one of the few books I’ve actually bought in the past few years. What an incredible story. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Red is LEGIT. Its beauty really does lie in its simplicity. I loved it so much.

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  4. Love this idea of focusing around “labels” even with younger children, and Red would be ideal for that. Also, I simply adore Chrysanthemum – he’s a local author! Thanks for helping host #diversekidlit!

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  5. These look amazing! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. I didn’t know either of these books and they both sound wonderful – Red looks like one of those picture books that could be used to great effect with older children too. It remonds me of a recent video that’s been doing the rounds and was recently used in my son’s school about no meaning no in the context of sex and using a cup of tea to expose the absurdity of not understanding – this sounds as though it’s based on a similar premise, though the labels themselves are of course much more insidious…

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