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Handsome Me.

Handsome Me by Wanda Thomas illustrated by John Higgins J.C.W Enterprises, Inc., June 2002 $8.99, ISBN 0-967-30842-9

Beautiful Me by Wanda Thomas illustrated by John Higgins J.C.W Enterprises, Inc., June 2002 $8.99, ISBN 0-967-30843-7

Wanda Thomas' companion picture books--one for boys and one for girls--are admirable primers on self-esteem, self-love, peer pressure and dealing with criticism.

In Handsome Me, Trevor is shooting hoops with his friends. When a young girl pronounces that Trevor is "too cute," her friends disagree. "He's ugly!" they counter. Cowed by her friends' remarks, the young girl caves-in to peer pressure and agrees with them. In Beautiful Me, Shanika encounters a similar problem. Her friends get angry when she refuses to let them borrow her jump rope. Her peers retaliate by calling her ugly.

The author's debut titles call attention to countless children who deal with name-calling and peer pressure every day. Read aloud to beginning readers, the books invite parents to discuss these issues with their children. The books are also a reminder of how important it is to praise children, and to instill in them a sense of self-worth and confidence.

Though well intentioned, Thomas' solutions to resolving conflicts are awfully simplistic and idealistic. After Shanika recites that age-old pithy adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," the young girl claims to feel better. But children, parents, and even Shanika, who breaks down in tears after she is taunted, know that hurtful remarks are, indeed, hurtful.

In the end, a thorough and loving once-over in the mirror is all it takes to reassure Thomas' young characters that they're "all that." While Trevor and Shanika are resilient, self-assured and mature enough to realize that their peers are just a bunch of boneheads, kids in the real world may not come to that conclusion so readily. John Higgins' vivid, comic-book style illustrations give visual weight to the characters' roller-coaster emotions.
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Jones, Lynda
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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