I’m a bit of a fan of Patricia Weerakoon and her resources for families and children. She tackles the tricky subjects with gentle honesty and a Christian faith-based perspective. You & Me by the Book is no different. It’s a large form picture book to designed help young children understand, as the text says, ‘God’s good plan for girls and boys’. The illustrations are done by Lisa Flanagan, who also illustrated Weekakoon’s excellent Birds and Bees By the Book series (a series I was privileged to provide editorial support for). The book is supported by an extensive Pointers for Parents and Caregivers section at the end, and this encourages discussion and openness between children and their trusted adults.
The book opens with the question ‘What makes you a girl or a boy?’, and the following pages invite children to consider the answers found in the Bible: that we were made in the image of God. Gently, and with Flanagan’s age appropriate illustrations, Weerakoon explains the physical differences between boys and girls, and that these differences existed from the time of conception. What I like about this book is the repeated reassurance that our identity is special, that we were loved by God, and that God has a purpose for us, no matter ‘whatever you wear, the length of your hair or what you want to play, or even how you feel about yourself today.’ It’s reassuring message we all need to hear.
Another strength of this book is the way it supports parents and caregivers to engage in discussion with their children. The Pointers at the back of the book are, as previously mentioned, extensive (8 out of 32 pages are given to this purpose). With discussion starters, questions and suggested answers, extension activities and even gospel opportunities, there’s plenty for parents to think about. Although I’m usually one for extra resources and parent/carer supports, I did wonder whether providing such extensive extra material meant the narrative itself didn’t need to work as hard. For example, towards the end of the book the Biblical story of creation and the fall are explained over two page spreads. The concept of sin is introduced and readers are told that ‘ever since, things in the world have been messed up’. While I know what this may have to do with identity issues, child readers are left hanging. The connections are not clearly made, and I wonder whether the 'story' could have communicated its main message a little more clearly without these two spreads. It could have moved directly to ‘Sometimes life can be confusing, even when it comes to our bodies and our feelings’. Because, given the repeated line mentioned above, isn’t that the main point the book is trying to make? That God made us girls and boys and he loves us, no matter what?
I do think You & Me by the Book is a lovely resource for families. However I’d probably recommend it with a caveat: pre-read it. This isn’t a stand-alone, self-explanatory story you might read between Bluey and The Hungry Caterpillar. It requires a little extra work on the adult’s part. And so it should. As culture shifts and squirms around us, Christ asks us to consider carefully how we build our identities on him, no matter what we ‘wear, the length of your hair or what you want to play, or even how you feel about yourself today’.
All the details you need:
Title: You & Me by the Book: understanding God’s good plan for girls and boys.
Written by: Patricia Weerakoon
Illustrated by: Lisa Flanagan
Publisher: GrowingFaith, Youthworks Media.
Available from: The Wandering Bookseller.
The Penny Drops
In high school I used to write what I'd call 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. I still write these little pieces.
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