Learning to assert yourself is not really about having a big voice, it’s about using the one you have – such is the lesson of Lana Button’s first picture book.
Willow is all too familiar with the problem of being ignored. No one listens to her, because “her words slipped out as soft and shy as a secret.” Friends don’t hear her when she says she’d like to sit beside them. The teacher doesn’t hear her ask for apple juice instead of orange. A pushy student grabs one of the dolls that Willow wants for her doll picnic, and can’t (or won’t) hear Willow’s request to have it back. That same student gets picked to be line leader over Willow simply because she speaks up louder and gets noticed.
With the help of a cardboard microphone, Willow finally finds her voice. She announces her preferences, asserts her rights, and makes everyone at school sit up and take notice. By the time the makeshift microphone gets accidentally crushed at the end of the day, she is ready to speak for herself, clearly and with confidence.
There’s not an ounce of sentimentality in Lana Button’s simple, well-crafted story. It has a familiar repetitive structure that makes it a great read-aloud tale, and Tania Howell’s illustrations are a suitable complement, with bold colours, spare lines, and plain white backgrounds. Shy, quiet kids will take heart at Willow’s small victories.