A guidebook to help children through troubled times.
This well-intentioned, ambitious book falters in attempts to guide caregivers in conversations with young children. Its failures arise in part from presenting three Western children (two of whom appear white and one who seems to be a girl of color) as the presumed stand-ins for readers. They are shown in watercolor vignettes reading newspapers and smartphones and talking to one another; these illustrations are juxtaposed with photographs of real people enduring real tragedies, which the text states can arise from human error, nature, and intentional, human acts of terror. Such distinctions are fraught since, for example, Hurricane Katrina is described as a “natural disaster,” but historical analysis points to human error and negligence as compounding its tragic impact. Humanity’s impact on climate change as a force behind natural disasters is likewise omitted. Furthermore, in contrast with the illustrated children, many if not most photos (they are uncaptioned) depict people of color in non-Western settings, giving the false impression that tragedies happen elsewhere, to others. Finally, text on closing pages that seeks to find meaning in tragedy may be read as romanticizing it with lines such as, “Perhaps tragedies happen to bring people together,” and “Whenever something negative happens, there is a deep lesson in it” (quoting inspirational guru Eckhart Tolle). Yes, it’s important to “look for the helpers” (backmatter quotes Fred Rogers), but what about dismantling systems that drive humanity toward so many tragedies?
Heartfelt but uneven advice. (Nonfiction. 4-10)