From the Publisher:
Abigail dreads swimming lessons. Every time she dives into the pool, she makes a big splash, and all the girls in her class shout: “Abigail’s a whale!” Abigail can see that she is larger than the other girls. She feels huge, heavy, and out of place.
Abigail’s swimming teacher takes her aside and points out: we can change how we see ourselves. He offers a creative visualization technique she can use to feel bolder, more confident, and more accepting of herself. Abigail tries it out in challenging situations that week—walking home in the dark, eating her vegetables, trying to fall asleep. Illustrations in the book show her perspective morphing powerfully to match her new thought patterns.
Next time she’s in swimming class, instead of feeling heavy, Abigail thinks sardine, eel, barracuda, shark! She starts to figure out how to draw on mindfulness, creative thinking, resilience, and positive self-esteem to embrace exactly who she is. This picture book supports social/emotional learning and serves as a perfect jumping-off point for topics like bullying, empathy, confidence, and creative problem solving.
Abigail is a heavy child who dislikes her swimming lessons because she is self-conscious about how she moves in the water due to her size. Her classmates shout “Abigail is a whale!”, much to her shame. At the end of the lesson her instructor (a plus-sized man) pulls her aside to offer words of wisdom and challenges her to change her perspective on how she perceives herself and her body as he compliments her skills as a swimmer. He tells her that “we are what we think” and that if she wants to swim well, she has to think light. He asks her whether birds or fish think they are too heavy for their tasks or do they just go about their lives? Abigail takes this lesson in creative problem solving to heart and applies it to many areas of her life. She imagines herself a hedgehog burrowing into bed to help herself fall asleep, and as a statue to help her with stay still when listening to instructions in class. This mental visualization is especially effective for Abigail’s performance in the water, and her peers show admiration for her improved confidence and demonstration of skill.
Though this book is, at its centre, about weight, it is not heavy-handed, nor does it point to a miraculous weight-loss transformation. The message is about self-acceptance and self-love, which is a vital lesson for young readers. The book portrays bullying and fat-shaming, but this is not the main point of the story and is not directly addressed in terms of consequences for the bullies who call Abigail names (which may be a point of concern for some). Instead, this title shines a light on Abigail’s inner self-dialogue and how that transforms her outer actions and self-confidence as she presents herself to the world. This is a powerful picture book about a sensitive topic. This title could be used effectively with both boys and girls – both for the subject of being different due to their body size/type or for gaining self-confidence. I highly recommend adding this book to your collection!
- strong message about self-love, self-acceptance and self-confidence. It clearly showcases that how we feel about ourselves (and how we portray ourselves to the world) affects how other people perceive us
- beautiful illustrations effectively portray Abigail’s emotions and also her mental visualizations
- no miraculous weight-loss story as a solution (story is not about this)
- none for me, but some may not like that the bullying is not directly addressed (however, the attitude of the bullies are changed when they see how talented Abigail really is in the water)
Why/How Use it with kids:
- help kids identify something about themselves that they feel embarrassed or awkward about. Discuss. Why do they feel this way? Have others teased them about this or made comments?
- practice this creative visualization and model it for the kids. How could they change their perception about themselves?
- for the youngest of kids, act out some of the visualization – (e.g jumping as high as a rabbit or kangaroo, etc.)
- visually represent some of the visualization (draw/paint/create models in clay, etc.) of being a statue, or swimming like a fish…
- as an exercise in empathy, help kids identify others who they know who may feel awkward or embarrassed about themselves for some reason. How could empathy and kindness be shown towards this person?
About the Author:
Davide Cali is a Swiss-born Italian picture book and graphic novel writer. He has written numerous books that have been published in over 25 countires. He has won numerous awards. He also has two pseudonyms: Taro Miyazawa and Daikon. He is perhaps most well known in North America for his evocative work The Enemy (illustrated by Serge Bloch) ~From OwlKids website