Title: Abigail the Whale
Author: Davide Cali
Illustrator: Sonja Bougaeva
Genre: Children's Books, Self-Esteem, Bullies
Rating: 3 out of 5 fairies
Where to buy: Amazon
Synopsis: Abigail dreads swimming lessons. Every time she dives into the pool, she makes a big splash, and all the girls in her class shout: “Abigail’s a whale!” Abigail can see that she is larger than the other girls. She feels huge, heavy, and out of place.
Abigail’s swimming teacher takes her aside and points out: we can change how we see ourselves. He offers a creative visualization technique she can use to feel bolder, more confident, and more accepting of herself. Abigail tries it out in challenging situations that week—walking home in the dark, eating her vegetables, trying to fall asleep. Illustrations in the book show her perspective morphing powerfully to match her new thought patterns.
Next time she’s in swimming class, instead of feeling heavy, Abigail thinks sardine, eel, barracuda, shark! She starts to figure out how to draw on mindfulness, creative thinking, resilience, and positive self-esteem to embrace exactly who she is. This picture book supports social/emotional learning and serves as a perfect jumping-off point for topics like bullying, empathy, confidence, and creative problem solving.
Review: When I first read the description for this book, I was like, WOW! Great! A book about bullies and fat shaming as it applies to kids. This is awesome! But I was rapidly let down. Bullying is a serious problem, and speaking as someone who was constantly bullied it can have serious lasting effects. Although it's wonderful that Abigail was able to boost her own confidence, the book never addresses the root problem - the bullies in her swim class. The ignoring of the bullies by the instructor, an adult who should have stepped in, is the same as saying their behavior is socially acceptable and that it's up to Abigail to deal with them by ignoring them and becoming more confident. Well written, but a serious missed opportunity that prevents me from giving this a higher rating.
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