Tayra’s Not Talking by Lana Button

Tayra’s Not Talking by Lana Button
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

There’s a new kid in the kindergarten class, but she won’t say a word! But … does it really matter? This sweet story has a timely message: there are many ways to make — and be — a friend!

The students in Miss Seabrooke’s kindergarten class don’t understand why the new student won’t respond when they talk to her. Speaking LOUDER doesn’t help. Tayra doesn’t even answer the teacher! Should they just leave her be? Maybe, Kitty decides, she can show Tayra things instead of telling her. Happily, it works! Soon the pair find they can communicate with gestures, dancing, drawings and smiles. And when the others see how much fun they’re having, they join in, too! It seems words aren’t the only way to connect and be friends!

In this charming picture book, Lana Button uses playful, cadenced rhyming text to explore the art of making a friend. This story sensitively captures a kindergartener’s fears and uncertainties, especially around being new and “different” and models compassion, acceptance and friendship as a reassuring way for others to respond. Christine Battuz’s expressive illustrations clearly convey the friends’ emotions as they process this new experience and try to decide what to do about it. This book is a perfect springboard for discussions about feelings, friendship, differences and belonging. It’s a strong choice for character education lessons on kindness, empathy, inclusiveness and caring.

Kindness makes everything better.

It was fun to see how non-verbal communication was used in this story. Of course it was shown in the illustrations, too, but the text itself gave all sorts of clues about how certain characters felt, what the people around them assumed they were doing, and what happened when those assumptions clash with what was really going on. This isn’t something I’ve seen emphasized so heavily in most picture books, so it was refreshing to find it here.

There were a few times when I wished the names of the other students in Miss Seabrooke’s class had been shared. Not having that information made it harder to get to know them as individuals, although it also provided an interesting contrast to Tayra who had a name but never spoke. If the author ever writes a sequel, teasing out any other differences between these classmates that might exist and sharing their names could be a good starting point.

I enjoyed the fast-paced storyline. The characters had exactly enough time to try to figure out what was going on with Tayra before school began and they needed to pay attention to their teacher. It was interesting to see how their assumptions about having a classmate who didn’t speak matched up with what they learned about her later. Everyone wants to understand the world around them, and their curiosity was perfectly understandable.

Tayra’s Not Talking was a sensitive and beautiful tale.

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