CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 26 . . . . March 9, 2012
A self-published book, You Are Sooooo Beautiful, is definitely a "message" book, and while the message is a worthy one, and one which certainly should be shared with everyone, beginning in childhood and reinforced as people mature, the vehicle for delivering the message, a picture book, is simply the wrong one. Power's focus is on society's understanding of the word "beautiful," a term which most people tend to associate solely with a person's exterior physical attributes. According to Power, recognizing and developing one's unique and varied inner "beauties", as well as seeing the inner beauty in others, should be goals for everyone. Doing so will result in increased self-esteem, a self-esteem that is not dependent upon the validation of others.
The "story" begins with the birth of Marley Rae, and her aunt's visiting her in the hospital where "She whispered to her new niece, 'There will only be one Marley Rae. Every person in this world is one of a kind. A unique masterpiece. If you live your life knowing this, you will shine from the inside out. Your uniqueness makes you truly beautiful." As Marley Rae grows up, she begins to express her individuality, with one instance occurring during her toddler years as she independently dresses herself, including choosing her own clothes, choices, which by external standards would be considered mismatched. "This is what I like. It doesn't matter if someone else doesn't like it." And while her aunt's first instinct is to "correct" Marley Rae's clothing decisions, Auntie recognizes that she must respect that Marley Rae is tapping into her inner beauty. "You're absolutely right. It is your style, your personality and your uniqueness shining for everyone to see. True beauty is expressing who you are on the inside." The only time when Auntie does intrude is when a school-aged Marley Rae insists that her playmates play her way. "You must do it this way – my way....Your way is too different. My way is right." Auntie takes Marley Rae aside and points out to her that she needs to let her friends be unique as well. The book ends with an adult Marley Rae about to make her own way in the world and prepared to pass on her aunt's teachings about true beauty. The book's title is a sentence that Auntie recites to Marley Rae several times throughout the book.
The book really has no plot per se, just a message that is repeated and expanded upon. Each pair of facing pages consists of a page of text and a full-page illustration. Most pages contain too much text to sustain a child's interests, and MacPherson's illustrations are bland and, with one exception, never show the characters doing anything other than smiling. The book closes with a "You Are Sooooo Beautiful" certificate (which can also be downloaded from the book's website) and a 10 item glossary.
The review copy of the book carries three "award" stickers. One says that the book was "Nominated for Canadian Library Association Children's Book of the Year." As a former member and chair of that committee, I can attest that books are NOT nominated for this award. Publishers are simply invited to submit their books for consideration. The other two "award" stickers are for "Parent Tested Parent Approved" and Dove Foundation "Family Approved". Both of these stickers are provided by American organizations that require fees of from $100 to over a thousand dollars to have items "evaluated," a situation which calls into question the objectivity of their assessments.
As I said at the outset, the book's message is worthy, but the target audience for the book's contents is really adults, not children. According to promotional materials accompanying the review copy, Power delivers "EmPOWERed Esteem" workshops.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.