This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 21.1.
Illustrated by Qing Leng.
Reptile Flu is the third book in Second Story Press’s new I’m A Great Little Kid series, following Fifteen Dollars and Thirty-five Cents: A Story About Choices and Never Give Up: A Story About Self-Esteem. The series is “designed to empower children to think and act in positive ways” (Second Story website), and so far does an excellent job at achieving this goal. In addition to stories that will engage and instruct child readers, the series includes a Facilitator’s Guide, and teachers can attend corresponding workshops through the Boost: Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (information found at their website).
Reptile Flu stars Kamal, a young boy who is afraid of reptiles, and of being teased in class about that fear. He is unable to tell his teacher how much he dreads the class field trip to the reptile refuge. He tries to tell his parents, but his small, fearful voice is not heard. His anxiety grows until the morning of the trip, when it bursts forth in a shout of anguish: “I’m terrified of reptiles! … And I really, REALLY, REALLY don’t want to go…” His teacher’s understanding leadership of her class is heartfelt and honest, and all is well.
A number of elements combine to make Reptile Flu so successful. The multicultural student body—reflected both in their names and in Qin Leng’s joyful illustrations—is presented as normal. No comments are made about the children’s ethnicities or any cultural difference: Kamal and his classmates are all just elementary students together. The story thread through the series is subtle but real, which will help young readers feel they are a part of Kamal and his friends’ world. The little things that might seem insignificant to adults are presented from a child’s perspective; the characters are honestly constructed; the language is both simple and engaging enough to captivate young readers.