cover image DON'T LAUGH AT ME


Steve Seskin, , illus. by Glin Dibley, afterword by Peter Yarrow. . Tricycle, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-58246-058-1

Songwriters Seskin and Shamblin laudably sound a call for tolerance in this picture-book adaptation of a heartfelt tune that inspired, and has become the anthem for, a rapidly expanding educational program within an organization called Operation Respect (founded by Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary). The text/lyrics focus on the ridicule suffered by a boy with glasses, a girl who wears braces and a wheelchair-bound child, among others, ultimately uniting the voices of the bullied in the verse "Don't laugh at me./ Don't call me names./ Don't get your pleasure from my pain./ In God's eyes we're all the same." Though the book's worthy message will likely strike a universal chord, young readers may be confused by the overly figurative sentiment "I'm fat, I'm thin,/ I'm short, I'm tall,/ I'm deaf, I'm blind./ Hey, aren't we all?" In earth-toned mixed-media artwork that blends watercolor, acrylics, wallpaper and other materials, Dibley (Tub Boo Boo) exaggerates the distinguishing features of his stylized characters, further bringing home the book's theme. His compositions use muted colors and crowd scenes to set off the ostracized subject; the boy "chosen last" on the playground becomes a shadowy outline under a basketball hoop as smiling kids crowd the foreground; a kid "slower than the others in my class" peers out of a sea of raised hands. A CD recording of the country-flavored song is included. Ages 6-12. (Oct.)