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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
What I Tell Myself FIRST: Children's Real-World Affirmations of Self Esteem is a social issues picture book for children, grades k-3, written by Michael A. Brown and illustrated by Zoe Ranucci. Who am I? A simple question, but the answer can provide a child with room and time to begin considering who they actually are beyond the formality of name and family identification. The short answer is, of course, one’s name, but there’s so much more that can be explored. Children are faced with an existence that often seems to require a graduate-level understanding of philosophy in a world that gets ever more complex.
Michael A. Brown’s compilation of affirmations goes a long way towards guiding children to consider themselves, their identities and their choices in a positive and engaging way. Brown is never preachy nor does he fall into the trap of didacticism. Rather, he approaches each of the issues he covers in this marvelous workbook from a child’s perspective. He takes his readers very seriously, and it shows in the way he communicates with them. I was inspired by this book and feel that anyone who reads this book, child and caregiver alike, will find it as inspiring as I did. Reading it can lead to discussions about truth, lies, visions and even why some people just can’t excel at some things while they do at others.
Zoe Ranucci’s illustrations do an outstanding job of reinforcing the author’s goals and visions. Her kids feel real, neither stereotypes nor cartoon images, and readers will find characters to identify with on every page. Even left-handed kids will find kids just like them throughout the pages of this book. Lefties are often left out or overlooked; Brown and Ranucci’s work fairly teems with left-handed artists, writers, and ballerinas. What I Tell Myself FIRST may help readers of all ages become just a bit more self-aware as well as help to build their self-esteem. It really is the most remarkable and accomplished children’s book and is highly recommended.