CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 3 . . . . September 21, 2012
In Susann Opel-Götz's picture book, Now We Are Cool, which is translated from the original German, two boys, Leo and Mug, aged about 9 or 10, explore what it would be like to be "cool." In this story, the older of the two boys, Leo, explains to Mug, the younger, what he thinks being cool is all about. In order to be cool, they will have to wear sunglasses all the time, watch scary movies, even if they, themselves, are too scared, talk cool, even if no one understands them anymore, and carry new backpacks to school so their moms will think every day is a field trip and not ask about homework.
Each of these ideas pleases Leo, but Mug seems both interested and worried because the "cool' behaviours all seem slightly corrupt, scary and otherwise wrong. He doesn't want to be "cool" if he has to watch movies he doesn't like, stop doing school work and have to listen to loud music all the time in order to ignore parents. Author Opel-Götz takes "cool" to the point where Leo is rude at a family dinner and gets "cool" friends who wear chains around their necks and spike collars around their wrists. Finally, Mug decides that being cool sounds like a lot of work. He would rather behave politely at dinner and get dessert. He doesn't like scary things because he won't be able to sleep. Mug convinces Leo that, if being cool is acting like a group of kids he doesn't like, then they should not be cool and should just be themselves and have fun.
At no point in Now We Are Cool does Leo, who is so enamored with being "cool", really tell readers why he likes it so much. The illustrations, also by Opel-Götz, show readers that the boys are unhappy when placed in the "cool" scenario they are describing. Their final decision, to just be themselves, is the choice that makes them both happy.
Robert Groberman is a grade three teacher at Kirkbride Elementary School in Surrey, BC.
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