Anna Pignataro, Being Agatha, Five Mile Press, 1 September 2015, 32pp., $19.95 (hbk), ISBN: 9781760067267
One day Agatha’s kindergarten teacher announces that “like snowflakes and stars, everybody [is]special in their own way.” The teacher suggests everyone in the class say why they are special. Agatha struggles to think of anything, but is eventually saved by her teacher and classmates, who point out that she is a good helper and good at making faces, before agreeing that “no one else is a better Agatha than you!”
This picturebook states on the back cover that it is “a story about difference and how being yourself is the very best thing you can be.”Apart from a short family history, Being Agatha has very little story outside of this message, which is disappointing, as the quirky animal characters Pignataro introduces could have carried an interesting story. I think this lack of narrative weakens the book’s pedagogical potential. A moral with little emotional resonance or intellectual confirmation is unlikely to convince a child reader of its truth. Although the text is well intentioned, it needs more narrative interest and emotional weight to engage and convince readers.
Pignataro’s pen and chalk illustrations create a lively impression of Agatha’s diverse Kindergarten classroom. Their detail and movement complement Pignataro’s simple and plainly written text and provide the reader with useful information about relationships between characters. Adults who are looking for a book for bibliotheraputic purposes may find Being Agatha useful for very young readers to discuss the idea that all people have value.
Reviewed by Lian Beveridge