Review Blog

Apr 24 2017

Me and you by Deborah Kelly and Karen Blair

cover image

Viking, 2017. ISBN 9780670079247
There are many people in a child's life - parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbours, best friends, parents' friends, pets . . . and that's before they even venture into the world of preschool and big school! And the shape of the relationship with each one is different. In this new book by Deborah Kelly, as softly illustrated as its focus, the connections are explored and enjoyed - the arty-crafty days; the yummy-scrummy days; the pedal-pushing days; the silly-billy days; the sandy-sandwich days; the footy-playing days; the slippery-sliding days; the grubby-garden days; the woofy-wagging days; the handy-helper days; the sausage-sizzling days; the stretchy-yawning days - all mixing, matching and melding together to enrich the child's life and cocoon them in love. Apart from the variety of adventures that the child has and the reader will resonate with, the richness of the language and its rhyme, rhythm and repetition will engage and perhaps even encourage the young reader/listener to start thinking about the relationships they have and starting to describe them using similar language. Primarily aimed at the preschooler, this book could also have traction with older students as an extension of learning about friendships so they move from thinking about what makes a friend and how to be one but also the types of relationships they have with those in their lives. For example, the relationship with their parents will be different from that with their teacher, and that with other children can be shaped by age, expertise and even power. Discussing why we are friends with particular people (or aspire to be), how friends should make us feel and where we fit in others' lives brings confidence and builds empathy and resilience when things don't work out.
Many parents seem to be deeply concerned about the friendships their children make particularly when the meetings are beyond parental control - as evidenced by this request to an international email group where a parent was looking for books about "choosing the "right" friends. She has requested that there be African American characters and she is concerned that he [bright son] seems to be choosing friends who are in the lower academic classes." By sharing Me and You older children might examine the friendships they have and what holds them together; debate the notion of "right friends"; discuss how a variety of friends who bring different circumstances, skills and attitudes can enrich our lives; and begin to understand the role and influence that friends have in their lives as well as their position in the lives of their friends. Such understanding may well offer valuable insight into their connections with other people now and in the future, helping them to make the sorts of choices their parents would be happy with or defending those that they wouldn't.
Perhaps author and illustrator just wanted to share the joy of being a child with all its fun and activity, but for me the best picture books work across a number of levels and delve deeper than the immediate storyline and pictures and therefore this one works very well.
Barbara Braxton

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