BLUE SPRUCE nominee 2012
written by Heather Hartt-Sussman
illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Toronto: Tundra Books, 2011
Age: 5 +
Interests: friendship, assertiveness, handling bullies
Noni can do a lot of things, but she cannot say no, especially not to her pushy friend Susie. After a few misfortunes, including having all her hair cut off, Noni braces herself and says NO! To her surprise, this doesn’t start a fight like she feared it would, as Susie simply shrugs and carries on.
This story is a really useful one for children, particularly girls, who are trying to navigate a difficult friendship and learn how to stand up for themselves. The end result, that often the conflict you expect doesn’t happen, is an interesting one, though the ending is a little abrupt, and we don’t get to see Noni enjoying her small triumph. We are, however, given a full appreciation of how difficult just saying ‘no’ can be for Noni. Children will respond to the injustice she suffers, so it’s an empathy exercise as well. (My daughter found the haircut episode almost too shocking for words and felt very bad for Noni.) Should provoke thought and discussion – many lessons lurk in this light and entertaining story!
The illustrations are simple and charming; the heroine is extremely sympathetic.