Me and You (2010) by Anthony Browne,
Suggested age range: 7 and up
(Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 32 pages)
Rating: 5/5 stars
“The girl leaped out of bed and ran downstairs and out the door.
I wonder what happened to her.”
The Book: Anthony Browne has done it again! He has written and illustrated a thought-provoking picturebook that leaves multiple gaps for readers, and manages to open up profound and spiritual discussion about how people treat and perceive one another. He accomplishes this all with the well-known fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But that’s not the title of this story; this one is called Me and You. The book follows the story of the original fairy tale, but includes the perspective of both the girl, who becomes lost after chasing a balloon and finds her way into the bear’s unlocked house, as well as the bears. One page includes the text and more muted illustrations of the girl’s view and the opposite page features the colorful and pastel world of the bears.
Spirituality in Me & You: One attribute of spirituality in texts for young readers is a capacity to increase social sensitivity in readers. For example, does a reader walk away from a book with a desire to understand and reach out to others more? The concluding text in Me and You portrays the child of the bear household, gazing out the window at the girl, wondering where she is going. We, the readers, get to see the barbed wire and the graffiti on the wall the girl walks by. We know that she was separated from her mother early in the story, and that she may go hungry some days. Having this perspective of her character allow the reader to more fully understand the why behind her going into the bears’ sunny yellow house. Encouraging such open-mindedness is a characteristic of Browne’s books.
Exploring this Book with Readers: This picturebook might make its way into the classroom and serve as a whole class read aloud, a book for an individual reader, or even a book for several readers. Two readers might switch off “telling” the story aloud—one reader can take the girl’s story and one reader can tell the bears’ story. Students could add several pages to the end of the story, and communicate through the written word as well as the visual what happens after that last page. Finally, this book would pair nicely with Browne’s Voices in the Park as many themes are similar. This book should be shared with children who might be familiar with the Goldilocks tale, and basically, every reader should be exposed to Browne’s picturebooks!
The Final Word: I have never been disappointed with any of British illustrator, Anthony Browne’s books, and this one was no exception. Browne has taken what can be a sensitive issue, and has framed it within the pages of a story about a lonely girl who is trespassing on another family’s property. Like his Voices in the Park, this story highlights a child (baby bear) who wonders about another child (the girl), even though the parents might be disapproving. Both books position the child characters as (potentially) the more sensitive ones, who are not as quick to judge others based on their appearance.
Can you think of other re-visioned fairy tale picturebooks (recently published or older) that encourage social sensitivity in readers?