Sunday, November 27, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book three hundred and thirty-one

Most of us like to think that we are fair people. When we see someone living on the street we try not to assume the worst about that person. When we see someone who looks different in some way, we try not to place a label on them. We try, but we do not always succeed, and sometimes we make assumptions that we shouldn't make about the people around us. 

Today's picture book shows to great effect how dangerous it is to make assumptions on this kind. 

MeenaSine van Mol
Illustrated by Carianne Wijffels
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 8
Eerdmans, 2011, 978-0-8028-5394-3
   Meena is a large woman who lives on Fly Street, and the children who live on that street are terrified of her. They have decided that Meena is a witch who is dangerous, and when they see that a little girl is visiting Meena, they get into a panic. Meena has taken a prisoner!
   Wanting to do something for the little girl, Christa, Klaas, and Thomas write WITCH on the street, and they also draw an arrow that points to Meena’s house. Their hope is that once everyone knows what Meena is, the old lady will move away.
   One day the little girl who visits Meena reads the words on the street. Christa, Klaas, and Thomas talk to her and find out that her name is Anna. They are appalled when Anna explains that Meena is her grandmother. They are convinced that Meena has put a spell on Anna. Anna is equally appalled (and angry) when the three children refuse to believe that Meena is a not a witch.
   Even when we are being very careful, many of us judge people without knowing anything about them. Something about their appearance or behavior makes us decide that they are weird, creepy, dorky, geeky, or uncool.
   In this picture book, Sine van Mol and Carianne Wijffels address this issue head on, showing to great effect how hurtful and cruel snap judgments can be. Children will see for themselves that Christa, Klaas, and Thomas are persecuting Meena, even though they have never actually met her or talked to her. 

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