Allison's Book Bag

It’s Okay to be Different by Marion Brake

Posted on: August 1, 2013

joesallyAnimals seem to inspire author Marion Brake. Horses inspired three of Brake’s books. Her two rabbits are featured in Brake’s most recent fiction, a chapter book called It’s Okay to be Different. During my visit with her in Gander, Newfoundland, Brake also revealed that a lizard is the star of a work-in-progress. But, let me return to her chapter book. For a story illustrated only in black-and-white, and with a strong moralistic overtone, It’s Okay to be Different was a surprisingly enjoyable read.

It’s Okay to be Different is about a boy named Tim, the pet store owner he meets, and two rabbits who need a home. Brake starts out by casually sharing that, “This story begins in the small town of Trinity in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Trinity is a lovely little town…. With the deep blue ocean, many trees, flowers, and green spaces, it was no wonder that Tim and her sister Kyra loved their new home.” Some writing guides will advise to never start with description, but Brake rightly realizes that the locale is important to her stories. She gets to the action soon enough, informing readers that while Trinity is small, it has a pet shop. Also, Tim’s family have a dog and cat, whom they adopted before their move. Oh, and after his first day of school, Tim visited the pet shop where he saw two rabbits behind the counter that were different from the rest. Within two pages, Brake has told readers everything they need to know about the main characters, the setting, and the overriding conflict. Throughout the rest of her chapter book, she continues to hold to that perfect unhurried pace.

Marion_RabbitI said that It’s Okay to be Different was a surprisingly enjoyable read. Why was I surprised? First, even the title itself screams “moral”. Second, a cursory glance at the table of contents reveals a chapter entitled “Lesson Learned” and another one called “Lessons Learned”. Brake isn’t subtle about her anti-bullying message. Especially by my age, I tend to prefer books which are grayer in tone. Yet there’s an alluring gentleness to Brake’s books, which is particularly strong in It’s Okay to be Different. Moreover, the chapters are well-written. Tim’s emotions are shown here: “He could feel his face turning red. Surely, everyone could tell he was lying and that would be the end to his fitting in and making new friends.” The pet store rabbits are adeptly described: “There was a variety to choose from, with some having long fur, some short, some had floppy ears, some had straight, and there were even a couple of dwarves. They were all different colors and sizes. Tim could not pick….” Brake even slips in an acknowledgment to the popularity of her horse books by referring to them as Tim’s favorite books. Fun move!

Supplementing this delightful little chapter book is a lucky rabbit’s “ear”, intended to encourage young readers to do something nice and send positive energy into the world. There’s also a list of suggestions for performing good deeds, something that I loved in books as an elementary student. Brake has even added interactivity to It’s Okay to be Different by including a Good Deed Diary. After readers fill out the diary, they can send Brake an email and receive a “Good Deed Congratulations Certificate”. Finally, there’s a photo of Brake’s own rabbits, whom she adopted in 2005 when they needed a home. It’s Okay to be Different is sure to be a hit in elementary classrooms.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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