August 24, 2017

Me, Me, Me

Written by Annika Dunklee
Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 5, 2017

Yep, it's all about her.  Annie, friend of Lillemor and Lilianne, and the girl in charge.  Or so she thinks, putting herself in control of all decisions relating to a talent show in which the three friends hope to enter as an all-girl singing group.  Sadly, every idea Lillemor and Lilianne bring up at their picnic meeting is vetoed by Annie.  Though the three seem to appreciate the different aspects each girl brings including the languages they speak and the treats they bring, when it comes to their orders of business, Annie decides all "because this whole thing was my idea."  Lillemor and Lilianne may comply but reluctantly.  It isn't till Annie has decided on the song they will sing, the outfits they will wear, the singing role each will play and the name of the group–Mi Mi Mis– that Lillemor and Lilianne speak up.
From Me, Me, Me 
from Annika Dunklee 
illus. by Lori Joy Smith
At first Annie is fine about being a solo act. But she decides something is missing and invites Penny and Ella to join her.  Unfortunately, the two girls give Annie a taste of what she gave her friends.  They decide on the costumes and the name, and relegate Annie, to her dismay, to background dancer.  Annie realizes her mistake and apologizes to Lillemor and Lilianne, promising to listen to their ideas.  A new meeting is held with the same orders of business but with very different outcomes that lead to a winning act.

Annika Dunklee, who wrote the award-winning My Name is Elizabeth (Kids Can Press, 2011), tells a simple story of getting along with friends for the success of all.  By making the girls different in languages spoken–Swedish, French and one Annie creates herself–and in delicious treats shared at their picnic, Annika Dunklee is able to emphasize that differences do not preclude children from coming together.  In fact, these differences make the combination of friends so much richer.

Lori Joy Smith, a PEI illustrator whose name most definitely will be added to an update of youngCanLit Who's Who of illustrators, adds the vivacity of youth to Me, Me, Me, making it like a literary cupcake in colour and tone.  Like Annika Dunklee's text which is never heavy-handed with embedding diversity, Lori Joy Smith makes sure to highlight the differences in the girls' hair, skin and dress while still blending their similarities through expression and friendship.
From Me, Me, Me 
by Annika Dunklee 
illus. by Lori Joy Smith
Character ed is pedagogical programming whereby children develop positive character values like cooperation and responsibility.  Though not planned as a pun on words, I believe book characters can be used to educate readers about situations that would require the establishment of such positive characteristics, perhaps by witnessing circumstances in which they are lacking.  Me, Me, Me as the name implies tells the story of a self-centred child who needs to see the value of cooperation and listening in order to succeed.  As teachers, we know that whether children are 4, 9 or 15, there will be conflicts between friends and they are conflicts that may seem like the end of the world.  Me, Me Me demonstrates that that end may only be a temporary one if the Me, Me, Me becomes Us, Us, Us.

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