Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Review - AYA and PAPAYA Discover What Makes Everyone Special

Aya and Papaya Discover What Makes Everyone Special (Aya and Papaya)
by Andy Abey
illustrated by Leo Antolini
Date: 2019
Publisher: Troubador Publishing Limited
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 38
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Aya and Papaya are back!

The sun rises and Aya is awake. She remembers that today is a very special day so quickly jumps out of bed to put on her favourite pink boots that she always wears on special days.

Aya and her best friend, Papaya, are going to go on a plane to visit Aya’s grandparents. At the airport they see lots of different people from lots of different places from all around the world. Aya learns a very important message about what makes us all very special indeed.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

While I appreciate what this book was trying to do, I don't think it quite got there.

Aya and her doll head to the airport with the family to get on a plane to go visit the grandparents. At the airport, Aya sees lots of different people speaking different languages. At first, she's disturbed by the differences and wants everyone to be the same. But eventually she realizes that differences are what make us special and are therefore good.

Now, I don't have a problem with the overall premise, but the way it's handled is a little unrealistic. Every time Aya has a question, she thinks about it and then comes to a realization. For a child young enough to be carrying around her doll everywhere she goes, I kind of doubt that she would be able to come to all of these conclusions by herself without a bit of help. This "think-and-realize" thing also makes the book seem kind of repetitive.

What really irks me about the book, though, is the last page, where the story concludes with:

From that day on, whenever Aya saw someone different, she was happy to see another person in the world who was special, just like her.

What's wrong with that? Well, the fact that Aya is portrayed as pretty white, for one thing, and the "different" people are clearly Asian. It seems like "othering" to me. What are non-white kids supposed to take from this? That they're "different"? Why do they have to be the "different" ones? (I'm sure Aya would be viewed as the "different" one in many places. The book could've gone into this, but it doesn't.)

The illustrations are okay, bright and colourful, with simple lines. But I'm still confused about some of the colours. Aya makes reference to her "blue" dress when it's clearly purple, and the toast the family is eating for breakfast is a sickly shade of green. Not very appetizing...

Because of the unrealistic child main character, the "othering", and the somewhat heavy-handed nature of the message, I can't really recommend this one. The intent was good... but the execution wasn't.

Thank you to NetGalley and Troubador Publishing Limited for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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