CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 15 . . . . March 20, 2009
Both Money Matters and Just Jealous describe the emotional turmoil that a young girl named Jazlyn experiences in the process of saving money and dealing with feelings of jealousy. In Money Matters, Jazlyn and her friend Julie work hard and save their money in order to go to the circus. But after spending a good portion of her money on comic books, hockey cards and some ice cream, Jazlyn realizes she does not have the entrance fee for the circus. In Just Jealous, Jazlyn becomes jealous and sad when she learns her good friend Julie has a new friend and a new playhouse whereas Jazlyn seems to have neither.
In both stories, adults help Jazlyn understand her difficult situation and discuss ways in which Jazlyn can better manage her money and feelings of jealously. In Money Matters, Jazlyn's mother explains, "It looks like you've learned a pretty valuable lesson about money. You really should save it, because you never know when you'll need it." In Just Jealous, Jazlyn's mother explains the reasons for Jazlyn's jealously and says further, "Don't be jealous. You just need to look at the situation differently…instead of feeling jealous that Julie has a playhouse, maybe you should be happy that your friend cares enough about you to want you to come over and play…[and] you should be happy that there is one more friend for you too and that you will all have a lot more places to play and things to do together."
Both books encourage the development of children's positive thinking skills and the recognition that there is a 'silver lining' to almost every difficult lesson in life. For example, in Just Jealous, Jazlyn learns that we can either choose to be sad about what we don't have, or we can be happy for the opportunities we may have when someone has something we don't.
Both books also promote the importance of children talking with an adult (especially parents) as a method for working through many of life's difficulties. For example, the author, Renná Bruce, provides a prompt on the last page of each book that parents and teachers can read to children in an effort to encourage children to discuss their own experiences with saving and jealousy. Money Matters asks the readers, "What are you saving for?" and Just Jealous asks, "Have you ever been jealous?" The ensuing discussions would help teachers and parents delve into the lessons Jazlyn learned in each story and how the children could activate that lesson in their own lives.
Both books could be used by teachers and parents with individual students or a class, in exploring emotions and feelings. Money Matters explores feelings of empathy and generosity, whereas Just Jealous deals with sadness and anger. Both books describe Jazlyn's situation and feelings in easy to understand terms, and they both clearly name the emotion Jazlyn is feeling. Teachers and parents can use these books to ask children if they have ever felt like Jazlyn before and how they dealt with the situation. The advantage of using these storybooks to initiate such discussions is that it is easier to talk about storybook characters than "real people" in an effort to help a child understand their feelings and work through them.
Money Matters and Just Jealous are illustrated in cartoon style with bright colors. Facial features and body gestures are clear and greatly assist in conveying how characters feel. A simple review of the characters' faces in different parts of the story, followed by a discussion into how the characters would likely be feeling, would help develop children's 'visual empathy'.
Both of us read these stories to our children. Both of us found that our early primary children found the visuals clear and unambiguous. However, our 10 and 11-year-olds noted an ambiguity in the symbol under the characters who were jumping. One child thought the character was going to be sucked into another world, whereas the other thought the character was jumping in a puddle. This symbol may have to be explained to some older readers.
Money Matters can be used to explore topics of spending versus saving, wants versus needs, and virtues of goals setting and working hard. Just Jealous can be used to explore feelings of jealously and to begin open up opportunities for dealing with such feelings in a variety of positive and creative manners (as opposed to anger and sadness). Both books are recommended for parents and teachers wishing to help children find the positives in two of life's greatest challenges – saving money and overcoming jealousy.
Stephanie Wasserman has been a primary school teacher in the USA and a licensed teacher in Sweden. She holds a M.A.Ed. from Western Washingotn University with an emphasis on multimedia in the classroom. At present, she is completing additional training at the University of British Columbia required for a teaching certificate in British Columbia.
Keith McPherson has been a primary and elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in BC since 1984 and is currently an instructor in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia.
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