Have you ever you found yourself needing to have a tough conversation with your child, but at a loss for words? Well, if you’re looking to talk about racism, belonging, body image, anxiety, money, feminism, adventure, creativity, gratitude, cancer, failure, or depression…there’s A Kids Book About that. No, really, there is!
Meet A Kids Book About, a publishing company that is changing the way we think about kids’ books. They believe that kids are ready to tackle the hard stuff, and they’re here to help parents have what can sometimes be tough conversations with our kids, at a level that is age appropriate. Their series of books is designed for ages 4-9, although the age-appropriateness of each topic varies (for example, Money is for ages 4+, and Body Image is for ages 7+).
The books are thoughtfully designed. They have no illustrations. Instead the text is presented very graphically on the pages (like The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak). There are no “stories” or “characters” in the way we typically think about children’s books. Some of the books are narrated by their authors, so they do have a character in that sense, but these books really are conversations—or more properly conversation starters. Each book starts with a page that says, “better together*” and the asterisk leads to a sentence that notes “This book is best read together, grownup and kid.” Each book also has in “Intro,” an introduction to the topic, and at the end is an “Outro.” The Outro gives the grownup some ideas about things they can share from their own lives, or questions to ask the child to continue the conversation so it doesn’t end with the reading of the book.
I’ve read them all and, of course, found some more useful than others. (For what it’s worth, my least favorites are Gratitude and Money, in part I think, because those are conversations my family already has and that we’re comfortable with.) I sat down and read a few of the books with my eight-year-old daughter and it was an interesting experience. The first book I introduced her to was Anxiety. I’ve written about mental health here and here, and I’m all for anything that can help make my struggles easier for her to understand, since no matter how hard I try, they do affect her. A week or so later I asked her to read a few more books with me. We’d been talking about racism and she was really struggling to understand the concept, so we started with the Racism book. It’s written by a person of color and the book seemed to help explain racism to her in a way that my husband and I couldn’t. As we were reading, she also shared with me a little bit about her school day and a presentation some of the teachers had done about exclusion. She never talks about her day!
After that, I let her pick the next book and she picked Cancer. I asked her why because, as far as I know, she doesn’t know anyone with cancer. She simply said, “I don’t know what it is.” The book explains cancer in a very easy to understand way, but it doesn’t pull any punches—including the fact that some people do die of the disease. The book also addressed what became her immediate concern which was, “So cancer cells are like my ear infection and are in my body right now?” We were able to briefly talk about the difference between germs and cancer cells.
She let me pick the next book and I selected Adventure, which is all about choosing to leave your comfort zone and try new things. It also explains the difference between feeling uncomfortable in a dangerous situation and feeling nervous about trying something new—a very important distinction to draw! That book turned out to be her favorite of the four we read because, “It talks about how you can feel when you move [to a new home]. I felt a little bit that way, but also a little bit sad and worried about making new friends.”
Each 8”x10” hardback book is $25.00, but you get 40% off if you buy three or more. And trust me, it’s hard to pick just one! Shipping is free. (They also have ebooks available for $15.00 each. The ebooks are currently available in EPUB format and are only compatible with iOS, iPadOS, and macOS devices.) The book covers are heavy and gorgeous. I was a little disappointed in the pages. For $25.00, I was expecting thick, glossy pages, but the pages are matte and lighter weight than I thought they would be. However, I didn’t pay the full $25.00 price for them, since I bought the whole library and saved 40%, so I wasn’t terribly upset.
Overall, my family are fans of these books. They’re quality items and they’re pretty unique. If you’re worried about your older child wanting to read a “picture book” with you, take turns reading, or read in unison; my daughter had a great time doing that. The books are great at sparking organic conversation, plus they include tips for more starting more deliberate conversations or taking actions after the books have been read. The final word from my daughter? “I think that they’re really good for kids that want to learn about stuff.” And there you have it.