Free Friday: One of a Kind, Like Me

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The book One of a Kind, Like Me tells the true story of author Laurin Mayeno’s son Danny. In the book, Danny wants to dress up as a princess for the school’s parade. The text follows his journey in finding and designing his costume, wearing it to school, and experiencing his classmates’ reactions. The text is very unique in that it is written in both Spanish and English, translated by Teresa Mlawer. This works to promote inclusivity both in form and content, in making a story that is so clearly about acceptance available to people who speak different languages. The book also provides essential representation to Spanish-speaking families and communities as the text in Danny’s classroom is in Spanish and his mom uses Spanish words in conversation in both translations.

The book’s simplistic and beautiful watercolor illustrations with soft lines evoke nostalgia and themes of childhood, but also allow the reader to focus largely on the text. Robert Liu-Trujillo’s illustrations greatly supplement and support the story.

This book is incredibly valuable because it explores defying gendered expectations from the perspective of a child. Danny never questions whether or not he should dress as a princess. Instead, he works with steadfast determination to find all the pieces that he needs for his costume. The text builds suspense when Danny cannot find a purple outfit that matches the drawing he made for his family at the beginning of the book. He demonstrates clear creativity – turning a shower curtain into a beautiful skirt.

The book then follows Danny to school, where he excitedly waits to put on his costume. When he does, he is met with confusion: a child in his class says, “‘I’ve never seen a boy princess before.’”  Danny responds with wisdom, reflecting on their costumes: “‘Well, I’ve never seen a walking pineapple or a talking butterfly.’” He lands on the conclusion, “‘I guess we’re all one-of-a-kind!’” and is met with smiles from all of the children.

The book provides a model for families, teachers and communities in supporting a child’s self-expression. Danny’s family is extremely supportive – helping him find and make his costume. His teacher tells Danny that his costume is fantastic, and helps him get dressed. The children in his classroom, while initially confused, end the story smiling and dancing with Danny. The story depicts the acceptance of Danny and the joy that he finds in his unhindered ability to dress however he would like.

The book would be a great way to introduce the idea of self-expression and individuality to a classroom. It would also provoke an interesting conversation to promote more understanding among children, highlighting the concept that everyone is truly “one of a kind.” I really enjoyed One of a Kind, Like Me. It supplements an area often lacking in children’s literature and provides essential representation to Latinx families.

The ending page of the book is beautifully written – Mayeno writes about her experiences supporting Danny’s desire to wear the costume and the importance of embracing and supporting gender diversity in children. Her website www.oneofakindlikeme.com has a learning guide and resources for parents, educators and community members.

– Olivia Horne

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