Walker Books, 2018
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Edward the giraffe does not like his long neck. In fact, he’s embarrassed by it.
It’s too long.
Too … necky.
He thinks everyone stares at it, and as he tries to disguise with ties and scarves and hide it behind trees and shrubs, he admires those with much smaller necks. And then he meets Cyrus the turtle who is frustrated by his short neck and… Together they learn that they can co-operate to solve problems and accept themselves as they are.
The creators of Penguin Problems have combined forces again to bring young readers a new book, one that focuses on acknowledging and being grateful for those things we do have because what we see as a negative may well be a positive to others. They may even envy it. Someone’s long legs might be just what the shorter person desires; someone’s auburn hair might be the thing that makes them stand out in a crowd… Encouraging children to accept themselves as they are physically and to celebrate that which makes them unique is all part of their development and may help them to become more comfortable in their own skin, more self-assured and less likely to follow fads and trends or even risky behaviour as they get older. Given that body image issues are concerns of even some of the youngest readers, any story that helps with self-acceptance has to be worthwhile. To discuss this without getting personal, children could make charts of the pros and cons of features such as the elephant’s trunk, the zebras stripes, the lion’s mane or other distinctive characteristics of different species that they suggest.
There is also a subtle sub-text about not being so self-focused. While Edward is busy admiring the necks of the other animals, they feel he is staring at them and making them feel self-conscious so children can be encouraged to think of their actions from the perspective of others. Learning that there are “two sides to a story” is an important part of growing up.
Another addition to the mindfulness collection as we try to foster strong, positive mental health in our young readers.