“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death … This means, to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” That’s Jerry Seinfeld, famed purveyor of parental wisdom, talking about a fear that takes root in childhood. Speaking up is scary for a lot of kids, and while some of you have managed to break the ice with a shy toddler by complimenting their shoes, even more of you have likely told a kid, “Use your words” so many times that you’ve forgotten what those words mean. One of these 10 stories will probably deliver the message better, provided you don’t get stage fright when it comes time to read them.
The Name JarHaving just moved from Korea (and presumably lacking access to a machine that tells you everything you could ever need to know about your name), Unhei decides to go nameless to school until she can pick one she knows the kids will be able to pronounce. They fill a jar with possibilities, but a classmate discovers the beauty behind her name’s meaning and helps Unhei make the only clear choice.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi ($8)
The Invisible BoyBrian fades into the background figuratively and literally (he’s drawn in black-and-white) until a kind gesture towards the new kid in class illuminates his artistic talents and their value. It’s a struggle to be a lonesome kid silently drawing superheroes with the power to make friends, but as an artist, one day Brian will appreciate not being appreciated in his own time.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton ($10)
Willow’s WhispersA kid only using their inside voice sounds like a good thing, until you witness the struggles of Willow, who never speaks beyond a whisper. She can’t accept group lunch invitations, challenge bullies, or get the right kind of juice (just point to apple!) until she builds a makeshift megaphone. After it breaks, she learns to make her voice stand on its own, which of course all kids should — just at a reasonable volume.
Willow’s Whispers by Lana Button and Tania Howells ($8)
Decibella And Her 6-Inch VoiceThe flip side of that coin is Decibella, who, as you might have inferred by her nickname (real name, “Isabella”), has a bit of an issue controlling THE VOLUME OF HER VOICE. Her teacher helps her understand the 5 voice volumes, and she practices until she realizes that “Donald Trump Challenging A Debate Moderator To A Fight” level is almost never appropriate.
Decibella And Her 6-Inch Voice by Julia Cook and Anita Du Falla ($8)
Mary Wrightly, So PolitelyThen there’s Mary Wrightly, who’s so well behaved she’ll even apologize for whatever dumb thing your kid just did. Mary learns that sometimes you have to assert yourself to get what you want, especially when all you want is to buy your kid brother a toy. So, would you be kind and read this to your kid? Please? Sorry, that should have said, “READ IT NOW!” Wow, that does feel better.
Mary Wrightly, So Politely by Shirin Yim Bridges and Maria Monescillo ($16)
When No One Is WatchingBeing brave is easy when nobody’s watching. When all eyes are on you, though, not so much. It’s the reason most shower singers never make it. Then there’s that one friend around whom you can do anything, and that’s the kind of friendship the narrator here has with Loretta. Introverts can be awesome, too. They just don’t care if you know about it.
When No One Is Watching by Eileen Spinelli and David Johnson ($15)
Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909There’s speaking up, and then there’s being a tiny Ukranian immigrant girl who leads the largest strike of women workers in US history. In Yiddish. Brave Girl is a history lesson and a primer in perseverance rolled into one, and it’s illustrated by a Caldecott Honor artist in case you needed one more reason to buy it. (Although Clara has proven to be pretty convincing on her own.)
Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909 by Michelle Markel and Melissa Sweet ($11)
Stand Tall, Molly Lou MelonThere’s never any doubt that buck-toothed, bug-eyed, toad-throated Molly Lou Melon will heed her grandmother’s advice and charm her would-be bully, Ronald Durkin. But predictability doesn’t make the story, or its titular heroine, any less awesome. It’s beautifully illustrated, and Molly Lou struts through the pages with an infectious “I’ve got to be me”-ness. In other words, your kid will come away assured that it’s their world; you’re just living in it.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow ($11)
Shh! We Have A PlanSpeaking up can also be done in the form of actions, which are of course louder than words (unless you’re Decibella). Case in point, the tiniest of 4 hunters in this jaunty little number is the only successful one, and the only one who doesn’t repeatedly issue the titular refrain, which sort of spoils the whole stealth thing most hunters tend to go for.
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton ($10)
You Are Not SmallThis Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner is basically an Abbott and Costello routine between 2 frumpy looking, bear-like critters trying to figure out who is small and who is big. It takes even more, equally goofy looking critters to settle the debate and teach your goofy looking critter that it’s okay to voice their opinion, but all things are relative.
You Are Not Small by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant ($9)