Miriam Laundry, I Can Be Me. Pictures by Jennifer Julich
Published 2016 in Canada, 32p
Pupusas (pronounced poo-Poo-sa) are a traditional Salvadoran dish made of thick, corn tortilla and a variety of fillings. The Salvadoran Civil War forced some of the population to migrate other countries, so the dish was brought to United States, Canada and Australia. Part of their cultural heritage, Salvadoran and Mexican children eat pupusas for lunch at school.
When little Maria opened her lunch box she was happy to see her pupusas; not her nor her mother have ever thought that the name of the dish could rouse controversy and laughter among Maria’s classmates. But Alex was terribly amused by the word and pointing to Maria’s food he said sarcastically: Did you say poo poo? You’re eating poo poo?
The aggressiveness in children’s behavior and their engagement in bullying are still a real concern for our society and researchers, educators and parents still seek to identify the roots of the behavior before elaborating the best solutions. Miriam Laundry is a Canadian author and a leader in self-improvement and when she started her I CAN series she thought of her books as mechanisms to change children’s behavior by improving their self-esteem.
Coming back to Maria, it is obvious that Alex’s remark upset and unbalanced her. Ashamed to eat her food and thinking of herself as being different she couldn’t focus on the teacher’s explanations or enjoy the news of a new class project.
“Our next project is called Discovery”, Mrs. Ruby informed the class. “You have one week to report back what you discovered using your new magnifying glass.” Everyone was excited about the project. Everyone but Maria. She couldn’t seem to think of anything except her silly pupusa.
Then one of the girls makes Maria a BE YOU card, explaining the importance of being always herself. Understanding that diversity is what generates uniqueness Maria uses her new discovery for the school project. Proud, in front of her class she illustrates using her magnifying glass how people are like fingerprints. As the morphology of our hands makes us particular, we should extend the observation and comprehend that diversity makes people special, Maria explains. Alex will learn his lesson eventually and understand the influence and complexity of words, the powerful messages they can transmit.
Miriam Laundry creates complicated and tense yet completely realistic situations; her characters are children facing daily problematic situations. But empowering them with good judgment and perception Miriam uses her characters to transmit influential and encouraging messages to her audience, developing an I CAN mentality.