Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Review - Ella May Does It Her Way

Ella May Does It Her Way
by Mick Jackson
illustrated by Andrea Stegmaier
Date: 2019
Publisher: words & pictures
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Hello and welcome to Ella May, the girl who likes to do things her way. In the first of this brilliant new series all about an imaginative, strong-willed girl character with her own ideas, Ella May tries walking backward, just to see how it feels. In her bedroom she tries reading her books backward, and after dinner she goes backward up to the bathroom and climbs backward into bed. When Ella goes backward up the slide and backward over the castle, Ella’s mum decides to turn around and walk backward next to Ella, to make it easier for them to talk. Pretty soon, half the town is walking backward in a giant, backward-walking procession. Where will it end?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not sure if I like this book. On the one hand, the message is good. On the other hand, the message is not so good. (Confused yet?)

Ella May is apparently not like other girls because she likes dinosaurs, insects, and apples. One day, her mother encourages her to try a new food. This leads to her wanting to try something else that's new... so she starts walking backwards. She does this for days, playing backwards on the playground and going up the stairs backwards. One day, her mum decides to try it. When others see the two of them walking backwards, they decide to join in. Soon, the whole town is walking backwards with Ella and her mum.

So what's wrong with that? Well, as soon as Ella sees everyone doing this, she doesn't want to do it anymore. She turns into one of those pretentious teenagers who have to be unique at all costs (often, ironically, ending up the same as all the other "unique" kids). I like the message about trying new things... but I really don't like the message of abandoning new things just because other people start doing them, too. Uniqueness is fine... but not if it means having to give up things you really enjoy. (Which leads me to wonder: did Ella really enjoy walking backwards? Or was she just doing it to be different?)

The pictures, in their limited colour palette, are pretty cute. The diversity of the folks in the town is refreshing.

So, while I do think that trying new things is great, I feel that that particular message is undermined by the uniqueness-at-all-costs one. Why can't kids just do something because they enjoy it? Teaching kids that they won't be special if they do things the same way as others isn't exactly a great message, either.

Thank you to NetGalley and words & pictures for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.5 out of 5

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