Stuff that Happens to Define Us
by Kate Scowen
illustrated by Peter Mitchell
Annick Press, 2010
$12.95, pp 160, ages 14+
This is a largely serious book wrapped in fanciful illustrations and interesting print. No Times New Roman here! Sombre tales of pivotal life experiences are told from a young person’s point of view, as they deal with sexuality, sizism, abuse, suicide, loss and fitting into a larger community. Each story is short, between 10 – 15 pages, and liberally sprinkled with stylized illustrations. It is written in the first person, as if the situation could apply to you or someone sitting next to you. The stories are related with tact and sensitivity, while not shying away from the awfulness that is the experience itself. After each personal tale, there is a Question and Answer page which gives greater detail about the incident in an effort to have the reader understand and demonstrate empathy, and insight into what the writer was thinking when the act occurred.
At the conclusion of the book there is an Afterward about what readers can do when seeking help for their own experiences. There is a resource list for Canada and the US, phone numbers to get help, and websites if readers have more questions.
This book is divided into quick reads as the authors delve into the questions raised by young adults. To use it in the classroom, the stories could be available for teachable moments, or within the parameters of character education. It would be appropriate in the self-help section of the library, or as stories read aloud for discussion—what would you do if it were you?
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s May 2010 issue.