Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Review - Simon Steps Into the Ring

Simon Steps Into the Ring
by Marylène Monette
illustrated by Marion Arbona
Date: 2020
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Simon tries to be kind. But sometimes he loses his temper and acts without thinking, which almost always gets him into trouble. As Simon begins to understand his outbursts, he imagines himself in a boxing ring with his emotions. Can he come out on top and learn how to acknowledge his feelings?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a story about emotional regulation. I'm not sure if the translation is just clumsy, but it doesn't really seem like a book for children; at times, the vocabulary is pretty advanced, especially given the simplistic way the main character is urged to deal with his feelings.

Simon gets in trouble at school. He imagines he has lots of little Simons inside of him, each fighting the other for supremacy. His uncle tells him that they're all important, but that they each have their place. What Simon really needs is a referee.

I'm not a fan of framing the whole emotional struggle with a violent metaphor. All of Simon's emotional states are represented by little boxers... but this doesn't make a lot of sense for some of the calmer, kinder Simons. I'm also a bit put off by encouraging kids to segment their personalities like this; the discussion at the end tells kids to think about their own little versions of themselves. Is it healthy to dissociate like this? Or even blame bad behaviour on some personified aspect of the personality? I'm not a psychological expert, but this just doesn't sit quite right with me.

I thought the illustrations looked familiar, and I realized I'd seen Marion Arbona's work before in Sam's Pet Temper by Sangeeta Bhadra. That's actually a much better look at emotional regulation in kids, and I think I would probably recommend that book over this one for this particular topic.

Overall, this didn't quite work for me. I don't know if all kids are going to be able to imagine all these separate aspects of themselves, and I'm not even sure if they should. Even if they do, I think some are going to struggle with assigning the pugilistic characteristics of a boxer to aspects of the personality like "Perfect Brother", "Good Student", and "Joyous".

Thank you to NetGalley and Orca Book Publishers for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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