September 28, 2015

Never Give Up & Reptile Flu

Never Give Up: A story about self-esteem
by Kathryn Cole
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Second Story Press
978-1-927583-60-9
24 pp.
Ages 5-8
April 2015


Reptile Flu: A story about communication
by Kathryn Cole
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Second Story Press
978-1-927583-61-6
24 pp.
Ages 5-8
April 2015

This new  I’m a Great Little Kid series from Second Story Press will be a bonus to teachers or parents looking for a literature-based lesson for teaching positive life values such as communication and self-esteem, especially as there are addenda called “For Grown-ups” that explain the concept on which the book is focused and provide guidance to addressing each.  Each book is a wonderful package of story and lesson, lovingly illustrated by Canadian artist Qin Leng whose artwork graces picture books from the quirky A Flock of Shoes (Sarah Tsiang, Annick Press, 2010) to light-hearted but poignant Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin (Chieri Uegaki, Kids Can Press, 2014) and Norman, Speak! (Caroline Adderson, Groundwood Books, 2014).  Now Qin Leng’s light touch will be recognizable as the one that lends an innocent air to the I’m a Great Little Kid series.  Lucky Kathryn Cole and Second Story Press.

In Never Give Up, Nadia watches as her friend Shaun continues to try to ride his two-wheel bicycle.  Learning that Shaun is good at skipping, the very skill she is trying to master, and that he does not give up on his bike and its training wheels, even after a bunch of kids laugh at him, Nadia enlists her father’s help to get Shaun balanced and riding successfully.  Reciprocating, Shaun helps guide Nadia, and funnily enough her father too, to become a successful skipper, even enlisting the help of those children who’d laughed at Shaun before.

With the class studying reptiles in Reptile Flu, Ms. Cosby, their teacher, plans a trip to the museum.  Kamal, for whom “The very though of reptiles sent shivers down his spine”, is less than thrilled.  But, he can’t find the words to tell his teacher, or even his classmates when they display their reptile drawings to him.  Instead, he endures nightmares and has ineffective conversations with his teacher, parents, sister and peers in an attempt to share his fears, all to no avail, until the day of the trip.  Finally, Kamal finds his voice and Ms. Cosby finds a way for Kamal to feel OK about his fears and even enjoy the trip.

Kathryn Cole’s messages in Never Give Up and Reptile Flu are so positive and told in such familiar scenarios that all young readers will easily find themselves empathizing with the characters who try to develop new skills or face difficulties with communication.  And, even better, they will actually see themselves in the book, so incredibly inclusive in the families displayed and the skin, clothing, names, and body types of the children within.  There’s Lin, Kamal, Claire, Nadia, and Shaun.  There are children in leg braces, in head scarves, with glasses and not, thinner, heavier, white, brown, black, poorer, richer–everyone is there!  And they are all given voice to share their likes, their fears, their needs. There is no better way to learn a life lesson than by seeing yourself, sort of, within the safety of a book, where no one can laugh at you or see your mistakes or weaknesses.  If Never Give Up and Reptile Flu are an indication of the wisdom and significance of the I’m a Great Little Kid series¬–even the series name works to promote a positive message!–I think all youngCanLit readers and their parents and teachers should be anticipating more worthwhile titles to add to their libraries, personal and school.

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