Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Review - Unstoppable Me!

Unstoppable Me!
by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer & Kristina Tracy
illustrated by Stacy Heller Budnick
Date: 2006
Publisher: Hay House
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Following in the footsteps of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s first children’s book, the bestseller Incredible You! this work goes even further toward expressing Wayne’s positive message for children. In Unstoppable Me! Dr. Dyer teaches children how to hold on to the no-limit thinking he believes they were born with, rather than just trying to “fit in.” In doing so, they can learn to truly enjoy life and become unstoppable as they strive to attain their dreams. The 10 important lessons in this book include the value of taking risks, dealing with stress and anxiety, and learning to enjoy each moment. Each point includes an example showing how a child might apply the concept in his or her everyday life. Similar to Incredible You! there are questions at the end of the book to help spark discussion and to further reinforce Wayne’s message.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I was hoping this self-help book for kids would be better than some of the others that I've read recently. Unfortunately, it was just more of the same privileged, ableist nonsense. There are a few good points here, as well as really cute illustrations, but a good portion of the book felt like an insult to a sizeable chunk of the population, and some of the advice was contradictory.

The book is laid out in sections, with a poem for each principle. The sections are as follows:

  1. You're Great - No Matter What!
  2. Persistence Pays Off!
  3. Welcome the Unknown
  4. You Have a Choice
  5. Farewell to Worry
  6. Peace Begins with You
  7. Enjoy the Here-and-Now
  8. Healthy Me!
  9. Creativity Is the Key!
  10. What Can You Give?

Now, on the surface, none of those seem particularly problematic. However, upon closer inspection, many of them just don't fit with the realities of today's childhood, where chronic conditions can wreak havoc with a kid's life and make some of these tips all but impossible to implement. Having dealt with chronic illness for most of my life, I find books like these extremely frustrating, as they end up having the opposite effect on me; I don't find them empowering at all, because there's often some principle I simply can't implement, and then I end up feeling horrible about myself.

Point #3 is the first section where kids might run into problems. Certain conditions (autism, PANDAS, etc.) can mean a person thrives on routine, and change is not just scary but potentially a threat to the person's mental health. Point #5 is another that might be an issue for the same reasons. If you're dealing with certain mental illnesses, worry is an intrinsic part of that. If it were that easy to stop worrying just by telling yourself to, conditions like OCD wouldn't even pose a problem.

Point #6 was where I really started to get irked. It's about anger, and Dr. Dyer's position seems to be that you should just let it go... no matter how justified it is. That's terrible advice! Would we have had the civil rights movement without anger? #MeToo? Anger can be a positive force if it's used constructively. (The example given in the book was terrible, too. The boy was angry because his brother stomped all over an anthill. But the book tells kids they're not allowed to be angry and just have to let things like that go. The problem is, Point #10 talks about having "respect for all things that live". By that token, the boy was perfectly justified in his anger, because his brother wasn't respecting other creatures.)

Point #7 continued in a problematic vein, teaching children to live in the present. Just recently, I saw the opposite advice, especially for people living with chronic illness. If you're unwell, the present sucks. It can be more helpful to think about the positive aspects of the past or your hopes for the future.

Point #8 was another slap in the face to those facing chronic illness, simplifying health into a matter of thinking positive thoughts. It also showed a little girl eating spaghetti and claiming it was good for her, which ignores the growing problem of gluten intolerance and celiac disease that a growing number of today's kids are having to face. (There are plenty of other healthy foods that could've been used for an example. Choosing a food that's problematic for a lot of people wasn't the best way to go.)

Most of the other points were fine, but there's so much problematic stuff in here that I don't think I could wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone whose health isn't 100% (and in an era where about half of people have one or more chronic conditions--a number that's growing all the time--it might be difficult to find such a person). It's almost as if this book was written for another time. As it is, it reads as an instruction manual aimed at privileged kids whose biggest problem is worrying about doing well on a spelling test. If you're dealing with poverty, inequality, discrimination, or illness, you might end up wanting to toss this book across the room.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.71 out of 5

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