Better Than You – Perfect Picture Book

Better Than You

Trudy Ludwig, Author

Adam Gustavson, Illustrator

Alfred A. Knopf, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for:  Kindergarten and up (Ages 5 and up)

Themes:  Bragging, Pride, Self-esteem, Friendship, Interpersonal relationships

Opening/SynopsisMy neighbor Jake can be a real jerk – always letting me know that whatever I do, he can do better.  Don’t get me wrong.  Jake is great at practically everything he does — especially sports.  Me?  Not so much.  I mean, I know I’m good at writing stories and playing the guitar, but when it comes to basketball, I have to practice a lot just to be a decent player.  Tyler’s friend Jake continually boasts about his abilities, making Tyler feel bad about himself.  It isn’t until Tyler’s Uncle Kevin compares Jake to a “pufferfish” that blow up its bodies to make themselves bigger than they are.  A new neighbor, Niko, helps Tyler see that Jake is the one with the problem.  Niko has the same problem with Jake.  Both boys become fast friends and really learn that friendships are supportive and encouraging.   Although the boys try to include Jake, he rejects their invitation.  Unfortunately there is no tidy ending, as Jake doesn’t know how to change.

Trudy Ludwig is the author of seven books centered around sensitive issues children face at school.   Her books are favorites among teachers and parents.  She has received the Mom’s Choice Gold Award.  She’s an active member of the International Bullying Prevention Association.  Adam Gustavson’s illustrations are rich, colorful and full of emotion.  He beautifully captures the feelings of the characters.

What I like about this book:  There seems to be an attitude growing among kids.  Some call it boasting, arrogance and lack of empathy.  It has fostered a generation of kids that are insensitive to the feelings of others.  They brag about their achievements, possessions and grades.  The list is endless.  Ludwig’s book sheds light on an ever-growing problem among kids today.   Self-worth is at the center of the problem and children should feel good about themselves because of their inner qualities and not their accomplishments.

Activity: You don’t need to look any further than this book, because there is a wealth of information for parents and teachers written by an expert in the Foreword of the book, and in the Author’s Note About Bragging and Boasting in the back pages.  She gives suggestions to help children turn painful encounters into positive life lessons.  And, she has a Questions for Discussion section for parents and the classroom.   She also includes a list of Recommended Books for Adults, so they can work with their children.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.