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Looking on the Bright Side of Differences
on May 30, 2001
Children are often afraid of people who are different when they first meet. You can use this book to help your child understand that we are all unique, and that there are benefits to be found in our differences.
Julie is freaked out on her way home from school to see movers taking a spoon as big as a shovel, a fork as large as a pitchfork, and a knife as long as a flagpole into a neighboring house. "'Yikes,' said Julie, 'I don't want to get to know those people at all.'" The next day, and on the same spot, she sees a new boy who invites her to play. Although it is near where those enormous implements went, the boy looks normal to her and she plays with him. At five o'clock comes the sound of an enormous call for "DAVID!!" that sends her scampering home to hide in her room until breakfast. The next day, she plays with David again and learns that his father is a giant. Gradually overcoming her shyness, she has dinner with David and his father. She gets over her fears when she sees that David's father is gentle and caring.
"David, you don't look very much like your father." "Well, I'm adopted." These days many families make no special effort to adopt children who look just like the parents. This book also gives you the chance to explain how love and caring are more important than similarities of appearance.
They then go out together. The children are ignored by the adults they meet, whether in crossing the street or buying things. Kids also try to pick on them. In each case, people become more considerate when David's Father says something in his loud voice like "STOP" or "THOSE KIDS ARE MY FRIENDS" or "BEAT IT." Some may interpret these incidents as bullying. I didn't see it that way. David's Father only steps in after wrongs are occurring, and he does the least he could do to remedy the situation. The overreactions by those who hear him are just there for fun. David's Father didn't demand those overreactions. People are just responding with trepedition to his size, as Julie originally had done.
Since all children are smaller than almost all adults, taking some of the fear out of size is a good subject for a book like this one. So I commend Mr. Munsch for his selection of story subject, theme, and plot.
To me, though, the best part of the book is to be found in the humorous illustrations that give the story a light, friendly tone. For example, Mr. Munsch's punchline ("Wait until you meet my grandmother.") is solid, but when combined with the view of a large gorilla leg in a red pump towering over the two children it becomes hilarious.
You should anticipate questions from your child about what the advantages are of various kinds of differences, such as people of other religions, with appearances dissimilar to yours, having disabilities, and experiencing mental problems. Your child will be quick to spot the issues for these differences, but much slower to see the advantages. If your family is religious, I suggest that you make your explanations in terms of the values that your family believes in and upholds in your worship. For example, Job's trials may be appropriate as one source of ideas for those who study the Old Testament.
Vive les differences!