Enough of Frankie already! [Multicultural Children's Book Day]
Tomorrow is Multicultural Children's Book Day in USA. I don't know if such a day exists in France nor Germany, however it should! The UNESCO has set the 23rd of April as World Book and Copyright Day, but it does not enhance the need of a more representative litterature for children (and for the adults too!).
When I enlisted myself last September to take part in this event, I didn't know which book I would receive. As I live "overseas" (from a US point of view), the author of the book I'm reviewing today sent it to me in a digitalized form. I had no clue about the topic of the book... I had just the title "Enough of Frankie already!" and at first, I thought it was about siblings rivalities. Guess what? I was totally wrong! But I wouldn't have it any other way. Because this book has the perfect topic for me!!!
As soon as the file was uploaded on my computer, I opened it and was met on the second page with the picture of a young African-American kid, with crossed eyes, steam coming out of his ears and an angry frown on his face.
I kinda laught... The kid was so cute! And it reminded me of my son when he's angry and really pissed off. I started to read the following pages and... I choked. Literally. I raised my eyes and Thanked God for His Love and Wisdom, and the Inspiration He sent to Becky Flansburg who was in charge of the coordination between authors and bloggers. I don't know she's religious but if you read me Becky, your choice was not a random one! Far from it!
You see, Enough of Frankie already! talks about bullying. It's maybe the first time you read a post on my blog, so you're not aware that it's a very personal topic for me. Bullying is a BIG NO-NO at my house. I have been bullied in my childhood and youth. Not to the point of the main character Amir who had his head push in the dirt and his shirt cut short of a few buttons. But with words, mean laughters and pokes in the ribs, yes. With being the last to be picked up on a team during sport class, again yes. And so on... I'm grateful that back then the cellphones were like big dinosaures and pictures on internet were more "concepts" than realities. I don't want to think of what I would have done if it had gone that way...
Amir is a second grader at Jefferson Elementary. He and his classmates are bullied by an older kid, Frankie. They are all fed up with his attitude and one day, when Amir choose to stand his ground, they all tell Frankie it has to stop. Frankie's answer left them quite speechless. It seems that bullying was a mode in this school and that he was also the vistim of it. With the help of a teacher the second graders and Frankie decided to break the vicious circle of bullying.
We don't know what happened after, but the author Felicia Capers left us with the best end possible: a list of questions and reflections we can have with our children or students. THEY will chose what to do in their life when confronted with a situation of bullying. THEY (and US, the adults) will be able to exerce their free will and set up their values. A book like Enough of Frankie already! is a useful tool for them to understand and feel what it means to be a victim of such acts. They are in Amir's shoes , they read and see what's going on for him. Well, he even talks to the reader!
I have read the story to my children, and pointed to them the pictures. My son is 6 and my daughter soon to be 3. As I struggled to translate the most adequately the sentences into French ("Mom, could you read it in French too? I don't understand!" said in French -of course-), my daughter pointed her finger to Frankie on one of the page and told me "Il est méchant!" (= "He is bad!"). She was a bit lost at why at the end Frankie was joining the younger kids in protesting against bullying. So I explained her (and her brother who was in the seat beside me) that Frankie was not completely "bad", that he didn't know how to react when he was a victim and turned his anger and dispear into violence. Picking up on smaller kids was the sole solution he came up with. A bit like when her brother refuses to share a toy he's playing with and she's so unhappy that she starts to shout and try to be mean to him. If she has to learn how to behave towards her brother when frustrated, the same goes for Frankie. With the help of people who care and will explain how to work our negative feelings, we can break the chain and have more harmonious relationships with others (a brother or schoolmates). I'm not sure the lesson has stuck, but I will certainly read many times this book with them. So after a few readings, it should be more internalized.
Why a book about bullying is included in a list of multicultural books? Simple! The characters of the book represent a school in New Jersey, as many exist. The children are from diverse ethnical and religious background as seen with their firstnames and the color of their skin. If you have asian, indian, african, south american or european ancestors (etc), you can identify yourself with one of the children of the story. Everybody can be bullied, as much as everybody can stop it and take a stand on dialogue, compassion and friendship. It's not an endogenous issue: bullying can be found in the whole world! We don't need to be "so and so" to change the view of people about it. As the author and the illustrator work for, sensibilization begins in our neighborhood.
So my dear readers, are you ready to join the movement and take a peaceful and meaningful stand against bullying?
About Multicultural Children Book Day:
“MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, the multicultural children’s book linky and also via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.”
The official hashtag of this event is #ReadYourWorld. The co-creators of the Multicultural Children's Book Day are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press.