The Same But Different Too by Karl Newson and Kate Hindley

The Same But Different Too by Karl Newson front cover

The Same But Different Too by Karl Newson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are many things about libraries that I love* but I think story time might be the thing I love the most. It is a curious privilege to work and to watch it happen; the prams gravitating together, the parents sat with the children, a librarian leading them through reading and songs and music, and everybody singing along, and then everyone coming back next week to do it all over again. I find it rather moving, this collective expression of faith in literature and literacy, and I sometimes think that if you want to know everything about a library, you should observe their story time. It tells you everything.

Certain books work for story time, but many don’t. It’s a very specific requirement; it must be universal, accessible, aural, and then there’s that certain something that you can’t quite describe but just know it when you see it. I knew it when I read The Same But Different Too by Karl Newson and Kate Hindley. It has it in spades.

The Same But Different Too is a simple, clear text that works through all the ways that people are the same but different too. I say people when in fact, this is a story about children and animals playing and living together in a variety of beautifully captured vignettes. A girl and a dog wear similar clothes: “I am me, / and you are you” and then the rhyme completes on the next page with a cat and a girl with similar coloured hair wearing the same clothes: “We’re the same / but different too”. Can you hear that rhyme? It’s practically edible.

As the book develops, so does the rhyme: A girl plays leapfrog with the aid of a tortoise “I am playful. You are too.” and then on the next page, a girl plays hide and seek with a zebra against black and white striped wallpaper “I can’t hide as well as you.” It is simple, clean and so well done. You don’t need to dress something up, you don’t need to make it backflip and recite the alphabet underwater, you just need a good story. And this has it. The simple compare and contrast of the text is a delight. It’s just so well done.

It’s also important to note that this book is furiously, wonderfully representative. In a world where I am sent books to review with solely white characters (I fed that one back to the publisher and told them I couldn’t even begin to review it), this is wonderful. From the little boy in the wheelchair (beautifully done, by the way, and not made into a didactic thing, he’s just in a wheelchair) through to the range of ethnicities and hair-types featured, this is a lesson on how to be representative. Truthful. Good. Right.

Like I said, this is well done. Immensely. Wonderfully. My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.

* in no particular order: the summer reading challenge, grandparents reading to their children in a quiet corner, dads and mums coming in on a Saturday morning and spending the day there, communities being formed, reading groups arguing over the latest best seller, buns being scoffed at the cafe, children quivering with physical excitement over a book, very confused babies not quite having a clue what’s going on, staff members giving their whole hearts to their jobs, the lady who’s carefully working her way through every book on the shelf, etc, etc, etc…

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