Author: Steve Seskin & Allen Shamblin
Illustrator: Glin Dibley
Publisher: Tricycle Press
Audience: All ages
Summary: Don’t Laugh at Me is the poignant tale of children and adults who wear braces, are chosen last for teams, beg on street corners and yet plead for acceptance and understanding. The story gives voice to our human condition: the desire to know that we belong, no matter how small, slow, sick, different, or poor we are.
Literary Elements at Work: There are two important literary elements at work in this story: artistry and the driving undergirding plea: don’t laugh at me. The illustrations depict the differences that these younger and older persons feel set them apart—glasses, braces, size, mental and physical coordination, wheel chair, race, etc. A child could easily retell the tale by following the artistry. The illustrator tells us that he himself wanted to be a basketball player but was too short. The storytellers introduce each character and spotlight a stigma or stereotype—nerd, geek, slow, glasses. This is followed by the refrain, “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. Someday we’ll all have perfect wings. Don’t laugh at me.” Additionally, this is a song and the book comes with a CD.
Scripture: Isaiah 43 selected verses: “Thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” (NRSV)
Theology: God creates us, forms us, redeems us, calls us by name, honors us, and loves us. Why? Because we are precious in God’s sight. This good news seems too good to be true. Thus, we need constant reassurance. That may be one of the reasons why the Bible says so many times, “Do not be afraid.”
Faith Talk Questions:
Sit down beside your child, let him hold the book and turn the pages. Ask him to point to the characters as you read. Repeat this process on each page, considering the following: In the story, the boys and girls and men and women notice their differences. Other people notice their differences as well. These differences make the boys and girls and men and women sad and feel left out. Sometimes people laugh at others who are different. BUT, are not we all different? And the same? Talk about differences. Some people are big; some people are little. Some people walk on two legs; some people ride in wheelchairs. Some people wear glasses; some people wear freckles. Some people like to read, some people like to jump. Talk about sameness. Short people and tall people are still people. Everyone has a mom and a dad. Everyone was created by God and in God’s image. Ask your child, “Who loves girls with glasses? Who loves girls with freckles? Who loves boys who walk on two feet? Who loves boys who ride in wheelchairs” Wait for responses. Ask follow up questions, “Does God love people who are fast? Does God love people who are last? Does God love people who are poor? Does God love people who are rich?” Say, “God loves you when you’re slow AND God loves you when you’re fast. God loves you when you walk on two legs AND God loves you when ride in wheelchairs. Why? Say, “God loves all people all the time.” Because you and we and they are precious in God’s sight!” End with a prayer thanking God for all short, tall, black, white, rich and poor boys and girls that God forms and loves.
Review prepared by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Kim Lee