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T.C.A. Avni

By Selina Yoon
Year 2016, pp. 40, Rs.199.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

As that old song goes ‘Everybody needs somebody’—someone who understands and accepts you as you are, and can enter into your schemes and plans. The ‘someone’ in question need not be a romantic partner—often our closest relationships can be with a friend, who stands with you through thick or thin, and just gets you. But the corollary to this is that because our friendships are with people we can relate to, those to whom we can’t often get treated as outsiders and can feel isolated and alone. And the divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ can be such small and ultimately inconsequential things— skin tone, accent, nationality, hobbies. Be A Friend is a book which explores this idea—what happens to a child who is different from others, and processes the world in a manner other kids his/her age can’t relate to. They feel excluded and get isolated from others, making their world a fairly lonely one. The barriers may even be selfconstructed and therefore perpetuating—because something serves to make them feel different, they can’t identify with others and viceversa, making reaching out harder and harder as small things form a chasm which widens. Young Dennis is one such case—he is a wonderfully expressive boy, but one who mimes and acts, rather than speaks. An evocative sentence to express this is which describes how while some children would enjoy climbing trees, Dennis would be happy to BE the tree. But miming can be a lonely life, as no one can quite understand and relate to him, and even a Tree needs company. His life takes a turn for the better when he meets Joy, and the little girl who sees the world the way he does—she can catch the imaginary balls he kicks, and play with him on make-believe swings. Their friendship forms the bridge through which Dennis is able to play with other kids as well. Selina Yoon does an amazing job with the text and illustrations—they are lively with attention to detail, and are descriptive enough to allow people to see what actions are intended when Dennis is miming. The story can serve as a medium to sensitize children to accepting differences in others, and can even be used to help discuss children who may be ‘differently abled’ and who often find it difficult to convey their ideas and ...

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