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A diverse story of sibling love: Perfect

All summer long I played 
outside, alone.
When people asked about my sister,
I turned my head away.
I didn't want to feel the way I felt.
But I couldn't love my sister, no
matter how I tried.

There's a boy waiting all winter for the birth of his little sister: he is excited and can't stop thinking about all the things they will do together.
The baby is born at the beginning of summer, when the swifts are back to nest in the roof above her little bedroom at the top floor of their house. When he sees that the baby is different, he rejects her.
He will need time to process a rainbow of emotions and the help of Nature to finally accept her.
As he helps a fledgling swift crashed onto the lawn to take flight, he starts looking at the baby from a new perspective and begins to bond with her.
Perfect is a story of anticipation, disappointment, self-development, compassion and finally love.
It is of course an important book to start a conversation about disability with children, but there is more.
The author does not specify the type of disability the baby girl is born with, it's not relevant to the story and it leaves some space for a more 'flexible' reading. So although the theme of disability stays,  I see Perfect mainly as a story about siblings love.
Children will grasp and understand the theme of disability to varying degrees, depending on their age and experience.
Some will just focus on the relationship between siblings and on the theme of acceptance, which is one most children can relate to.
In fact, words and images draw the attention to the boy's strong emotions: disappointment, anger, loneliness, fear, guilt. Cathy Fisher beautifully illustrates them with some truly intense, lyrical images.
Young readers are encouraged to acknowledge them and name them, describing the way they are represented and how the boy finally overcome his initial state of mind embracing his new reality how it is.
A special role is played by Nature: Davies reminds children to look at Nature and be inspired by the animal world to find their way through complexity and difficulties, which is an important, grounded teaching.

If you are a parent, carer or teacher, I strongly recommend to visit Nicola Davies' website to download the Teachers' Notes, which provide a valuable guide to the reading and some additional inspiration for discussion.
This book should have a place in every bookstore, and sit in every school library, in order to increase awareness about these topics among young children.
I have always found the school environment in London  not being very inclusive compared to other cities in Europe, so I see the value of this type of reading for my daughters, and I will encourage them to share this in class.
We live in an era of alexythimia (from Greek: no speech for emotions) and social separation: adults themselves often struggle to deal with diversity and to have a decent level of humanity within society and awareness of their own emotions, ignoring the fact that this is a learning process which should be started at a young age.

Perfect has now been adapted for theatre and has been brought on stage by Tessa Bide productions. Check out dates of the upcoming shows here and have a look at the beautiful promo video below! 
-
Perfect [2016] available here
Words by Nicola Davies
Art by Cathy Fisher
English edition by Graffeg Publishing
Reading age: 4+
Themes: Disability, Diversity, Dealing with emotions, Siblings


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