A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton seemed like a good book to share with you today on Multicultural Children’s Book Day. A Tale of Two Beasts is a clever picture book that parents and teachers can use to help children see the world from various people’s perspectives.
In A Tale of Two Beasts, Fiona Roberton tells the same tale twice — once from the perspective of a girl who finds a squirrel-like creature named Fang in the forest and the second time from the perspective of Fang. In Part I, a girl discovers a “strange beast” (i.e. Fang) hanging upside down in the forest. She rescues Fang and takes him home. In Part II, Fang is “ambushed” by a “terrible beast.” The terrible beast ties Fang up and carries him off to her secret lair.
Roberton carefully connects the two stories. After Part I, we are left wondering why Fang runs away from the girl only to return. In Part II, this mystery is answered. We can only fully understand the story when we see the story from both characters’ perspectives.
While this story teaches an important lesson, it does so in a way that is lighthearted and entertaining. It is at once eye opening and funny to see the same story told from two different perspectives. In Part I, the girl proudly dresses the strange beast up in “a gorgeous new hat and sweater” and feeds him “a delicious bowl of fresh nuts.” In contrast, in Part II, Fang reports that a terrible beast dresses him in “a ridiculous hat and sweater” and tries to make him eat “squirrel food.”
Fiona Roberton’s illustrations subtly change between the two tellings. Here is a spread from Part I, where we see the story from the girl’s perspective. In Part II — the story from Fang’s perspective — the girl is drawn slightly larger and more menacing. Fang’s eyes are drawn slightly bigger, depicting his alarm at being wrapped tightly in a scarf and carried off.
Roberton’s attention to detail and her use of both images and text to tell this story make this a successful picture book.
Recommended for: Ages 5 to 8. Teachers can extend the text by having students write their own stories told from two different characters’ perspectives.
Why Multicultural Children’s Book Day?
The mission of Multicultural Children’s Book Day is to raise awareness of and celebrate diverse books and to get more diverse books into classrooms and libraries. Today, you can head over to the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website to find links to reviews of diverse children’s books by bloggers around the web.
While initiatives to promote books with diverse characters should not be necessary in 2014, statistics such as these from Lee & Low Books make it clear that they are.
Given that the percentage of children’s books featuring characters of color has remained dismally low over the past two decades, teachers and librarians must do a little leg work to seek out diverse books to share with students. Here are two resources for those seeking out diverse books to share with students:
1. We Need Diverse Books. The We Need Diverse Books website has a fantastic list of resources for finding excellent books with diverse characters:
2. The Brown Bookshelf. The Brown Bookshelf is about to begin their eighth annual 28 Days Later campaign, “a Black History Month celebration of emerging and established children’s book creators of color.” Each day in February, The Brown Bookshelf introduces a new author or illustrator of color.